Ninth Circuit to Consider Case Against California Law to House Sows Humanely

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation appealed a case to the Ninth Circuit alleging California’s Proposition 12 is not constitutional because it imposes burdens on interstate pork commerce. The proposition regulates the production of veal, pork, and eggs, and requires that female pigs used for breeding be housed in groups and with sufficient space to stand up and turn around for the pork meat to be sold. 

The plaintiffs, represented by Mayer Brown, argued in the December 2019 complaint that since pigs are raised primarily in the Midwest and North Carolina and pigs are often moved to different farms after weaning and processed and packaged at a third location, the law is unduly burdensome. The legislation would require separate facilities and tracking for pigs whose meat would be sold in California from those sold outside of California. 

Multiple animal rights groups have intervened in the case in support of the defendants and Proposition 12, including the Humane Society of the United States. The law, which is set to go into effect at the end of 2021, would require 24 square feet for each sow whose offspring would be sold as pork in the state of California. 

The Southern District of California entered a judgment dismissing the initial case on June 16. The court in the April order to dismiss the case argued that the extraterritorial principle in the Constitution’s commerce clause typically applies to laws that only affect interstate commerce, while this law also affects commerce inside the states. 

California has about 8,000 sows, however, the state’s annual pork consumption would require about 673,000 sows according to the order. The order dismissed the case because the court ruled the plaintiffs did not demonstrate the law would cause a “substantial burden on interstate commerce, but gave the plaintiffs time to file an amended complaint. The National Pork Producers and the American Farm Bureau Federation filed a notice that they did not intend to amend their complaint.