US meat industry sues California over welfare legislation

By Aidan Fortune contact

- Last updated on GMT

US meat industry sues California over welfare legislation

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US industry trade body North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12: The Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.

Proposition 12 seeks to increase the minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens in California. It also reaches beyond the state’s borders by prohibiting the sale in California of uncooked pork or veal from animals housed in ways that do not meet California’s requirements.The trade body opposes the law on the grounds that it believes it will “hurt the nation’s food value chain by significantly increasing costs for producers and consumers”​.

“Prop 12 hurts the family on a budget with higher prices for pork, veal and eggs, and unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions more just to access California markets,” ​said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “We are a highly-efficient and unified economy in this country and so that’s just not right. If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand, California will dictate farming practices across the nation. California’s overreach creates an unworkable patchwork of differing state regulations that will make it impossible for the supply chain, from small farmers to your local grocer, to function.”

Citing the State of California’s own economic analysis, the Meat Institute added that consumer prices are likely to increase because producers will have to spend to expand or construct new animal housing which may cost more to operate in the long term.  “The state acknowledges it may take several years for farmers to comply resulting in a shortfall of products and increased prices for consumers.”

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, asks the court to halt implementation of the law (grant a preliminary injunction) because Prop 12 violates the commerce clause and the federal structure of the United States Constitution. The Constitution prohibits states from discriminating against interstate and foreign commerce, regulating commerce outside of their borders or imposing undue burdens on interstate and foreign commerce. Prop 12 violates each of these limitations.

Meat Institute added that Proposition 12 imposes “substantial burdens on the interstate markets for pork and veal that are not justified by legitimate local interests”.

“For example, not only does Prop 12 prohibit the sale of uncooked cuts of pork from the breeding pigs, it prohibits the sale of meat from the offspring of those breeding pigs, even though the offspring are not subject to Prop 12’s space requirements. This sales ban means Prop 12 effectively regulates how sows and veal calves are housed everywhere in the United States if the meat from those animals or their offspring could be sold in California.”

Meat Institute warned that “Prop 12 exposes companies to potential criminal penalties and the threat of civil lawsuits filed by competitors and others”.

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