The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the California law saying that pigs must have enough room to turn around and lie down for their meat to be sold here in the state, in a ruling that sliced wildly across ideological lines.
Remember those threats of a looming bacon shortage a couple of years back, where the pig farming industry said a new California law would cause the price of bacon and pork to skyrocket? Haha, joke was on them, because the price of everything skyrocketed in the last couple years. The supposed shortage and price increases were linked to a 2018 California ballot measure called Prop. 12, which 63% of the state’s voters approved, saying that pigs must be raised with 24 square feet of space and enough room for them to turn around for their meat to be sold in California. (The law is currently on hold over separate litigation.)
The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau sued, and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. But the Associated Press reports that Thursday morning, the Supreme Court upheld California’s pig confinement regulations in a close 5-4 vote.
“While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion, according to the Washington Post.
California does not produce much pork, but it certainly consumes a lot. The Post estimates that “Californians consume 13 percent of the nation’s pork, with 99.9 percent of that meat produced beyond the state’s borders.” Those farming and pork industry lobbies argued the law violates the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause that says states cannot regulate industries outside their borders. But the court ruled that this law only regulates pork and bacon sales within California, not other states.
The pork industry is not hog wild over the legal setback. "Allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation," National Pork Producers Council president Scott Hays said in a statement to Reuters.
This particular case jimmied the court’s ideological left-right divide; conservative justices like Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett sided with the California animal rights law, and liberal justice Ketanji Brown Jackson opposed it. According to NBC News, five justices wrote their own separate opinions.
And the Associated Press adds that the Biden administration also wanted the California law overturned, arguing in briefings that the law would create a "wholesale change in how pork is raised and marketed in this country" and would throw "a giant wrench" into the pork and bacon industries.
Our own state attorney general Rob Bonta was tasked with defending the law. NBC News reports that Bonta successfully argued in filings that the law was “not aimed at benefiting California producers over out-of-state competitors.”
Image: KG Baek via Unsplash