As of May 2023, the US Supreme Court upheld Proposition 12, the California law that prohibits the trade of some farm animals kept in the most extreme confinement, it can be argued that this state has the strongest animal welfare laws as far as farm animals are concerned. However, the animals will not benefit if such laws are not enforced properly.
California’s Prop 12 should get around 40 million egg-laying hens, tens of thousands of veal calves, and half a million sows out of cages and crates each year, and although it will not stop factory farming, pigs will go from having around 14 square feet of space to 24 square feet, while hens will go from around 75 square inches to double the space or more.
The process of enforcing Prop 12 will be challenging. Bryan Pease, an animal lawyer in California, said to Vox, “These laws are only as good as the enforcement…Unfortunately, the animal rights movement has a bit of a track record of passing great laws, claiming victory, and then just moving on to the next thing without actually ensuring enforcement.” There have been California animal welfare laws that are weakly enforced, like laws to prohibit the sale of foie gras, fur, and dogs from puppy mills.
However, sometimes it is not up to the animal protection organisations to push for enforcement. Other economic sectors may do that for them. For instance, as Prop 12 stipulates that grocers and restaurants are not liable for selling non-compliant products so long as they had received written certification of compliance from producers, meat and egg producers may want to follow the law to avoid being sued by them.
Jon Lovvorn, chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the Humane Society of the United States, said, “I think that the interlocking nature of the contractual relationships in this industry makes compliance more likely… But it doesn’t mean there won’t be problems, and it doesn’t mean there won’t be people cheating the system. … I think that’s going to exist in any enforcement system, but I don’t think this is going to be a huge problem.”