Producers of pigs argued that a California law prohibiting cruelty to animals would have a negative impact on their business and drive up the price of bacon and other pork products. The law was upheld by the Supreme Court. The law’s breeding pig area restrictions would force a shift in the $26 billion pork industry, most of which is produced outside of California.
The higher court affirmed the decision made by lower courts concerning the pork producers’ suit. During the October arguments of the case, conservative and liberal justices emphasized the possible consequences of the case. Some were worried that allowing the animal cruelty law could give state legislators the power to create laws targeting disliked practices.
In contrast, others warned of how many state laws would be called into question if California’s law were not allowed. The issue has raised concerns about the regulation of other products, such as a law that forbids the sale of a product if the workers who made it are not vaccinated or are undocumented.
Voters in California approved Proposition 12 in 2018. It mandates that pigs whose mothers were given at least 24 square feet of space to lie down and turn about must be used in the production of meat marketed by the state. This means confined “gestation crates,” metal enclosures commonly used in the pork industry, are not allowed.
The Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation sued, arguing that although Californians consume 13% of the pork eaten in the US, almost 100% of it comes from hogs raised outside California, mainly in the Midwest and North Carolina. Pork producers contend that the vast majority of sows live in facilities that do not meet Proposition 12’s requirements.
The Biden administration had urged the court to side with pork producers and said that the law would cause “wholesale changes” to the pork industry and that it has “thrown a giant wrench” into the country’s pork economy. Farmers allegedly provide insufficient space for sows to turn around in 72% of cases, with even those who use larger group enclosures failing to comply with California law. The pork industry reports that the cost of meeting the requirements of Proposition 12 would be anywhere from $290 million to $350 million.