By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Those who follow this blog know about the impending lawsuit in front of the United States Supreme Court, which will have immense consequences for animals. The case centers around Proposition 12, California’s landmark law to address animal cruelty and public health issues stemming from the worst factory farming practices.
In June, we told you about the initial round of briefs in this case, filed by the National Pork Producers Council and amicus groups supporting this petitioner. Just minutes ago, respondents including the Humane Society of the United States—along with our allied animal welfare organizations—and the state of California submitted responses laying out strongly and clearly why Proposition 12 should be upheld by the nation’s highest court.
Proposition 12 was spearheaded by the HSUS in 2018, with support from hundreds of volunteers and leading organizations focused on animal welfare, the environment, responsible farming, food safety and the safety of farm workers. The measure prohibits the in-state production and sale of eggs, pork and veal from facilities that lock animals in cages so small they can barely move. Voters passed the measure in a landslide, with 63% in support.
Proposition 12 is considered by many to be the strongest law for farm animals in the world—and it is also vital for human health. Extensive research has shown that the extreme confinement of farm animals facilitates the spread of pathogens that can cause dangerous foodborne illness or potentially lead to future pandemics.
While the constitutional law issues in this case can seem dense, the pork industry is essentially arguing they have a constitutional right to raise pigs in cruel conditions outside California, and then sell pork into the state, disregarding California’s humane standards.
Fortunately for the public as well as animals, a long history of judicial decisions have concluded that states have the right to prohibit the sale of products within their borders, including those that run counter to the ethics of their citizenry, or that threaten public health and safety. With our briefs, the HSUS, our animal protection partners and the government of California have laid out this history for the Court and respectfully urge the justices to maintain this important precedent.
Public sentiment strongly supports improved welfare standards for farm animals, as well. A new national survey from the highly respected polling firm Data for Progress found: 80% of respondents believe that preventing cruelty to farm animals is a “matter of moral concern” to them. Furthermore, the results show that 80% of Americans are in favor of the sales standards set forth by Proposition 12 and would support similar laws being enacted in their own states. The opinions are shared and virtually identical across Republican and Democrat respondents, signaling true bipartisan agreement.
Just as we built a massive coalition to secure Proposition 12’s passage, we’re anticipating an impressive alliance to defend Proposition 12 in court. Next Monday, a wide variety of entities—including nonprofits, economists and academic scholars, with backgrounds in public health, veterinary medicine and constitutional history—will be submitting additional briefs in support of Proposition 12. Stay tuned: We will update you on this blog next week with highlights from those briefs, and we remain confident that we will prevail.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.