In a late November ruling, Judge Christina Snyder of the US District Court for the Central District of California denied a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), which sought to enjoin enforcement of the California measure known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, or Proposition 12. N. Am. Meat Inst. v. Becerra et al., Dkt. No. 19-08569 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 4, 2019).
Approved by voter referendum in 2018, Proposition 12 places specific minimum-size requirements on the coops and cages used to contain egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves. It will effectively ban all businesses from selling in California any food products derived from animals not raised in compliance with these requirements.
In its motion, NAMI had argued that Proposition 12 violates the US Constitution's Commerce Clause by requiring out-of-state producers to comply or face a sales ban. NAMI also claimed that enforcement of Proposition 12 would harm producers and consumers by leading to increased food costs.
In her ruling, Judge Snyder signaled that NAMI would not be likely to succeed on the merits if it advanced the same arguments at trial. The holding notes that the measure "applies evenly no matter where production takes place" and found "no serious argument" that it substantially burdened interstate commerce, even if it denied the trade group a "preferred, more profitable method of operating in a retail market."
The Proposition 12 requirements will be implemented over the course of the next two years. Starting in 2020, veal calves and egg-laying hens can be deemed to be confined in a cruel manner if they are housed, respectively, with less than 43 square feet per calf and less than 144 square inches per hen. Starting in 2022, cruel confinement will be defined to include the confinement of any breeding pigs with less than 24 square feet per sow. Proposition 12 also requires adherence to the United Egg Producers 2017 housing guidelines for cage-free confinement by 2022.
NAMI, which represents more than 700 members including packers and processors, filed a notice of appeal to the US District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on December 3, 2019. As another reflection of the significance of this issue, a parallel complaint was filed on December 5 by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Nat’l Pork Producers Council et al. v. Ross et al., Dkt. No. 3:19-cv-02324 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2019).