A federal appeals court has rejected an attempt by meat processors to block a California animal housing law, Proposition 12, from going into effect.
Ruling Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court judge’s decision in November denying a request for injunction by the North American Meat Institute.
“The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Proposition 12 does not have a discriminatory purpose given the lack of evidence that the state had a protectionist intent,” the court said in its brief, unpublished ruling.
Nor did the district court abuse its discretion by relying on a previous 9th Circuit ruling “to hold that Proposition 12 does not have a discriminatory effect because it treats in-state meat producers the same as out-of-state meat producers,” the court said.
NAMI is challenging the sales ban in California on veal and pork not raised according to housing standards specified in Prop 12, which California voters approved overwhelmingly in 2018.
“The sales ban violates the Commerce Clause’s prohibition on protectionist legislation that discriminates against interstate commerce,” NAMI said in a brief filed in the appeal. “The sales ban impermissibly strips away the competitive advantage that out-of-state producers have over in-state producers because their home states have not imposed the same costly confinement restrictions that California imposes on its farmers.”
The group said the law would “devastate the out-of-state veal and pork industries.”
In a statement, NAMI said it was “disappointed in the ruling” and is reviewing its options.
“California should not be able to dictate farming practices across the nation,” NAMI said
The Humane Society of the U.S., on the other side in the case, praised the decision.
“We’re pleased that the judicial system has again affirmed that each state has the right to ban the sale of products within its borders produced through cruel factory farming methods,” HSUS senior staff attorney Rebecca Cary said.
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“Rather than continuing to squander their members’ money on losing frivolous lawsuits, the meat industry trade groups should instead invest in improving animal welfare and complying with animal cruelty laws,” Cary said.
The decision is not the end of Prop 12 litigation in the 9th Circuit. A separate action brought by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council, which was dismissed at the district court level, is still pending in the appeals court, where the federal government recently filed a brief backing the farm groups.
Travis Cushman, AFBF senior counsel for public policy, said that while the groups “share the goal of ensuring animals are well cared for,” Prop 12 “fails to advance that goal and will also have other serious consequences. Californians who supported Prop 12 and believed it would improve animal welfare were not presented a complete picture regarding the trade-offs of different animal housing systems and the complexity of animal care decisions.”
As for the NAMI case, Cushman said, “We cannot speak to challenges filed by other organizations. NPPC and AFBF have fundamentally different interests at stake than NAMI. We represent the actual farmers who raise these sows and are being told that they must forfeit control over how they run their farms.”
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