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 May 13, 2023

Supreme Court upholds California regulation on treatment of hogs and pigs

The Supreme Court has upheld a California regulation on the treatment of hogs and pigs used to make pork, the Washington Examiner reported. The lawsuit was brought by out-of-state pork producers who argued it violated the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

Proposition 12, passed under California law in 2018, mandated all pregnant pigs sold for meat in the state must be given 24 square feet of living space. The penalties for noncompliance include up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The law has yet to go into effect as it's faced challenges from the American Farm Bureau Foundation and National Pork Producers Council. However, the National Pork Producers Council v. Ross case has upheld the lower court's ruling against the farmers' claims.

'"Companies that choose to sell products in various States must normally comply with the laws of those various States," the 58-page majority opinion from Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said. "While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list."

In order to violate the Commerce Clause, California's rule would have needed to prevent other states from doing business in California. The Supreme Court decided this was not the case since Golden State pork producers were also held to this standard.

The plaintiff farmers, primarily concentrated in Midwestern states like Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Iowa, argued that California's law is unfairly applied as the state barely produces any of the national pork supply. California accounts for 13% of the pork consumption in the U.S. but only produces 0.133% of the pigs.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in his opinion that the state law was not made invalid by virtue of imposing an "extraterrestrial" application. However, he agreed that the burden was "clearly excessive" in its requirements.

"Sometimes there is no avoiding the need to weigh seemingly incommensurable values," Roberts wrote. Justices Ketanji Brown, Brett Kavanaugh, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. also agreed with his opinion.

Animal rights activists were pleased with the ruling, of course. "We won't stop fighting until the pork industry ends its cruel, reckless practice of confining mother pigs in cages so small they can't even turn around," Human Society of the United States President and CEO Kitty Block said.

"It's astonishing that pork industry leaders would waste so much time and money on fighting this commonsense step to prevent products of relentless, unbearable animal suffering from being sold in California," she added. Although this is good for the pigs, it's not ideal for the family farms that raise them.

"This Supreme Court decision will not only affect every small, family-run farm in the nation, but it changes the standard of how state governments can impose regulatory burdens on businesses and consumers outside of that state," Beth Milito, executive director of the Small Business Legal Center at the NFIB, pointed out. "Today's decision sets a dangerous precedent, and small businesses will bear the consequences."

Making livestock farms as humane as possible is something worth discussing as a nation. However, like many things that come from the left, it began in the legislature as yet another government imposition.

The farmers who produce pork will now be expected to modify their facilities to meet these requirements if they wish to sell to California. That financial burden means their right to do business has been impeded by laws that have nothing to do with the quality or safety of the meat itself.

Instead, they have imposed rules for the comfort of livestock without considering what it does to the people who rely on the industry for a living or food. Virtue-signaling animal rights activists have once again chosen livestock over people, and now they do so with the Supreme Court's blessing.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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