By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Last week we wrote about the briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Humane Society of the United States, our allied animal welfare organizations and the state of California in a lawsuit brought by the National Pork Producers Council, aimed at overturning vital provisions addressing animal welfare, as well as public health. Today we’d like to provide an update on the impressive group of additional experts that have weighed in on our side.
Some background: The Supreme Court is considering a case brought by the National Pork Producers Council regarding Proposition 12. This pivotal law was passed in 2018 by a strong majority of California voters after a major campaign by the HSUS and our allies. In California, Proposition 12 prohibits the in-state confinement of farm animals in cages so small they can barely move. Proposition 12 also ensures that pork, eggs and veal sold in California, regardless of whether they were produced in the state or elsewhere, were not produced using extreme methods of confinement.
States have long played a role in protecting their citizens by cleansing their marketplaces of morally objectionable products. Proposition 12 does exactly that, ensuring that Californians won’t be subject to buying products they overwhelmingly consider cruel. But it also has important health and safety benefits for them. It is well-documented that confining animals in crowded, stressful conditions contributes to the spread of various pathogens that can cause food poisoning or lead to future pandemics.
But instead of listening to the will of voters, the National Pork Producers Council decided to challenge Proposition 12 in court. Even as state legislatures, retailers, customers and many pork producers themselves move away from gestation-crate pork—rejecting both the cruelty and the public health dangers created by intensive confinement systems—, the National Pork Producers Council is essentially arguing they have a constitutional right to raise pigs in cruel conditions outside California, and then sell pork into the state, disregarding California’s humane standards. The cruel conditions we’re talking about involve cages so small the animals can’t turn around or take more than a step forward or backward. Our legal team has thwarted these efforts at every turn over the past four years, and now we’re going to fight the National Pork Producers Council in the Supreme Court. We’re confident that we’re on the right side of this critical case.
We are so grateful to all the nonprofits, farmers, veterinarians, elected officials, law firms, companies, scholars, economists and others that are devoting a massive amount of their time and expertise to this crucial legal battle. Here are just a few of those that have filed amicus briefs in the Supreme Court supporting the legality of Proposition 12:
From the brief submitted by Perdue Premium Meat Company Inc. d/b/a Niman Ranch
“Contrary to Petitioners’ apocalyptic predictions of the impact of Proposition 12, producers can and will adjust to the demands of the California market and raise hogs humanely without sacrificing their ability to earn profits.”
From the brief submitted by O. Carter Snead, et al.
“The moral sentiments that motivated California voters to pass Proposition 12, addressing the severe abuses of pregnant pigs, find their roots in longstanding beliefs held among religious thinkers and philosophers throughout Western civilization.”
“By prohibiting the in-state sale of meat from breeding pigs and their offspring housed in intensive confinement, the law will protect California’s workers and residents from zoonoses, and the State from life-threatening and financially devastating outbreaks.”
From the brief submitted by American Public Health Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Center for Food Safety, et al.
“Proposition 12 addresses these risks to food safety and public health by restricting the sale of pork products in California produced using such intensive confinement practices. More space reduces stress in sows, which mitigates the cascade of stress-related negative health impacts on the sows and their piglets destined for slaughter—which, ultimately, reduces risk to California’s food safety and public health.”
“The weight of the scientific evidence strongly supports the conclusion that gestation crates cause profound, avoidable suffering and deprive pigs of a minimally acceptable level of welfare. California’s judgment that pork produced through such cruelty should not be sold in its markets is reasonable and humane.”
One of the most important briefs comes from Attorneys General from 14 states and the District of Columbia who emphatically defend the right of states to ban products that violate their citizens’ moral values and/or that threaten public health. They wrote, “although the States have taken different approaches to the regulation of pork sold within their borders, all agree that petitioners’ view of the dormant Commerce Clause would significantly impair their ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents across a wide range of regulatory regimes.”
We are thrilled with this show of solidarity, but our work on this crucial case isn’t over. For the next two months we’ll be helping our side’s legal team prepare for oral arguments in front of the justices, scheduled for mid-October. Be sure to subscribe to A Humane World for these and other updates. In the meantime, help us keep the heat on cruel pork producers by sharing this story.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.