UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge of California’s Historic Prop 12
In 2018, California voters passed Prop 12, a historic ballot initiative that is one of the strongest laws yet protecting farmed animals from the cruelty of intensive confinement systems. Unfortunately, after multiple lawsuits failed to overturn it, the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a challenge brought by two farm groups.
Intensive confinement is among the worst common practices found on factory farms. Sadly, mother pigs are confined to gestation crates so narrow they cannot even turn around. Egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages so small they can’t stretch their wings, and calves raised for veal who have been torn from their mothers far too soon are also restricted from moving and engaging in natural behaviors.
Building on Prop 2 and AB 1437, Prop 12, which was scheduled to go into full effect on January 1, 2022, requires cage-free housing and defined space requirements for these animals; pigs would need at least 24 square feet of floor space, egg-laying hens would get 144 square inches and enriched environments and calves would get 43 square feet.
Prop 12 also bans the importation of products, including meat and shell and liquid eggs, into the state if they come from farms that don’t meet these new standards, which is where the current challenge brought by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation comes in.
They argue that Prop 12 violates the “dormant Commerce Clause” of the Constitution, which prevents states from passing protectionist laws that discriminate against businesses in other states, by placing a costly burden on out-of-state farms to upgrade.
Even though there hasn’t been any disagreement in lower courts about allowing Prop 12 to stand after multiple separate lawsuits attempted to block it, the U.S. Supreme Court has surprisingly agreed to take up the case.
It won’t be heard until December at the earliest, but if the Supreme Court rules against Prop 12, it could help set a precedent that limits states’ rights to regulate products, regardless of how cruel, horrible or dangerous they are.
Hopefully, that won’t happen, and the will of the California voters to protect farmed animals will be recognized and upheld and more states will continue to make progress on passing humane laws.
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