The Pulse

In defeat for pork industry, U.S. Supreme Court okays California animal cruelty law

By: - May 11, 2023 11:17 am
hog farm

The U.S. Supreme Court today dismissed a challenge to a California law that will impact North Carolina hog farms. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in a case challenging a California law approved by that state’s voters in 2018 that could have a significant impact on pork producing states like North Carolina. As was explained in this column last Spring, the case revolved around a law that requires all pork sold in the nation’s largest state to come from farms that abide by some very minimal animal cruelty standards for the treatment of breeding pigs.

The law requires that the animals in question must have enough room to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. As Clark Kauffman of the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported at the time:

“One element of the law defines as ‘cruel confinement’ a breeding-pig enclosure that provides less than 24 square feet — the equivalent of a 6-foot by 4-foot area — of usable floor space per pig. The law applies to all of the pork sold in California, regardless of where it was raised.”

Today, the Supreme Court affirmed a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that dismissed an industry challenge to the California law.

Some observers have expressed concern that a ruling upholding the law could open the door to additional state laws — from both progressive and conservative states — that could dramatically and problematically impact interstate commerce. The Biden administration had urged to Court to rule in favor of the industry challenge.

That said, the ruling is clearly an important victory for those combating animal cruelty. The Washington Post reported today that, according to the pork industry, nearly three out of four facilities used for raising hogs do not currently meet the California standard and that, given the way pork is usually processed, it’s likely that all U.S. hog farms will be impacted.

North Carolina is ranked third among U.S. states in pork production, behind Iowa and Minnesota, raising around nine million hogs per year — nearly one for each human resident.

Click here to read the Court’s ruling.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.