This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy went…to the Supreme Court?
In an ominous turn of events for states’ rights and animal protection, the Supreme Court of the United States recently decided to hear arguments over the constitutionality of California’s animal cruelty law, Proposition 12. The law, which passed in a landslide victory in 2018 and with rare bipartisan support, states that pork, along with eggs and veal, cannot be sold in California unless the egg-laying hens, mother pigs and baby cows used to produce them were kept in condition that complied with specific standards for freedom of movement.
How this issue has even found its way to the nation’s highest court is head-scratching. Multiple lower courts threw out the challenge by the Pork Council, stating that California was within its right to require an additional 10 square feet of space (roughly the size of a closet floor and an increase from 14 SF to 24 SF) to at least allow mother pigs to have the ability to turn around in their gestation crates.
But make no mistake, the National Pork Board has come out with full guns blazing in an attempt to head off what they are characterizing as a catastrophic financial burden those extra 10 square feet would cause. In an ironic turn of events, however, a University of California at Davis study, commissioned by the National Pork Board themselves, reported that the allegations of nationwide harm to pork producers and consumers were implausible and unsupported.
Sadly, this has not stopped the pork industry and its massive PR departments from spreading the word to sympathetic media outlets that the state of California has grievously overstepped its bounds and is poised to raise the price and limit the supply of pork, just in time for the holiday season. Headlines such as “Consumers Across the Country May Pay for California’s Pork Regulations”, coupled with the-sky-is-falling articles such as a recent one which brazenly asked, “Will California Be the Undoing of Our National Economy” are preying on the fears of consumers across the country, especially during these challenging financial times.
To us, and to many of the animal protection organizations involved in the Prop 12 case, the real question here is not about interstate commerce or the economic effect on a $28 billion industry. Instead, the key issue is whether a state has the ability to decide if it will be complicit in the worst animal cruelty. Or whether the Supreme Court will tell them, too bad, you have to.