The US Supreme Court is considering California’s cruelty to animals law regulating pigs and pork prices

By JESSICA GRESKO | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is considering a California cruelty to animals law that pork producers say could disrupt their industry and raise the cost of their products statewide.

But in Tuesday’s arguments, the judges appeared to have more concerns than Speck.

Pork producers say California law requiring more space for raising pigs will force the $26 billion industry to change its practices, even though pork is produced almost exclusively outside of California. The question for the High Court is whether the nation’s most populous state violated the US Constitution with its law.

During more than two hours of arguments, both conservative and liberal judges questioned the fate of other state laws affecting other states.

“So what about a law that says you can’t sell fruit in our state if it’s being produced — if it’s being handled by people who aren’t legally in the country? Is state law permissible?” Judge Brett Kavanaugh asked.

His colleague, Judge Elena Kagan, referred to a law in the state where she grew up: “I heard that New York has a law that says that if you want to import firewood into the state, you have to have a certain kind of pesticide to make sure various pests don’t get in with the firewood,” she said. “Would that be forbidden?”

And Judge Amy Coney Barrett asked if California could pass a law banning pork from companies that “do not require all of their employees to be vaccinated or from companies that do not fund gender-affirming surgeries.”

However, she also expressed concern about the repercussions if the court were to say that California law is invalid.

“How many other laws would fall that might affect it?” she asked. Would the court “challenge many laws that are fairly common?”

The case in court concerns California’s Proposition 12, which voters approved in 2018. It states that pork sold in the state must come from pigs whose mothers were raised with at least 24 square feet of space, including the ability to lie down and turn around. This excludes closed “Trachtboxen”, the metal housings common in the pork industry.

Two industry groups, the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation, sued the proposal. They say that while Californians consume 13% of the pork eaten in the United States, nearly 100% of that comes from pigs raised out of state, primarily where the industry is concentrated in the Midwest and North Carolina. The vast majority of sows, meanwhile, are not raised in conditions that would meet Proposition 12 standards.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson summed up the issue by saying, “To what extent can California control what Iowa does in terms of housing its pork?” She asked why California couldn’t do something less onerous on the industry like “put the pork out.” Separating Iowa when it comes in and putting a big label over it that says, ‘This is immorally manufactured.’”

The Biden administration has urged judges to side with pork producers, telling the court in written filings that Proposition 12 would be a “wholesale change in how pork is raised and marketed in this country.” The government says the proposal “threw a giant wrench into how the interstate pork market works”.

Pork producers argue that 72% of farmers use individual stalls for sows that don’t allow them to roll over, and that even farmers housing sows in larger group stalls don’t provide the space that California would need. The US Supreme Court is considering California’s cruelty to animals law regulating pigs and pork prices

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