On 11th May 2023, the US Supreme Court upheld California’s Prop 12 saying that California has the right to decide what products appear on its store shelves and that the law serves the moral interests of animal welfare. California’s Proposition 12 is a law that bans the sale of products from pigs that are kept in cages or pens that prevent them from turning around freely. The law also applies to egg-laying hens and veal calves. Prop 12 was passed by 63% of California voters in 2018 but it was later challenged by the National Pork Producers Council, which argued that it violated the Constitution by affecting farmers outside of California. The Supreme Court disagreed, so it ruled that the implementation of this law can continue.
Justice Gorsuch wrote for the Supreme Court majority, “In a functioning democracy, policy choices like these usually belong to the people and their elected representatives.” All of the Justices unanimously rejected the pork industry’s claim that the ban on selling such products is unconstitutional merely because it indirectly affects out-of-state producers. Justice Gorsuch then was joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett in further voting 5-4 to reject the industry’s secondary claim that the benefits of Prop 12 are outweighed by the negative effects on commerce.
Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President, said outside the Supreme Court in response to the ruling: “PETA commends the Supreme Court for blocking the meat industry’s greedy attempt to deny mother pigs, hens, and calves a miserly few inches more space in enclosures that still prevent them from taking barely a single step — but we also stress that this ruling does nothing to end the extreme cruelty inherent in today’s factory-farming and slaughter industry. Feel-good labels like ‘crate-free’ and ‘cage-free’ are meaningless to the animals who are suffering for their whole lives, condemned to dark and crowded sheds, raised on concrete, and sent to slaughter without ever touching grass or experiencing a natural life.”