Today (Monday, August 15), Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the Supreme Court in support of California’s Proposition 12, in the case National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. The brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of animal protection organizations and law professors, including San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA), The San Diego Humane Society, Marin Humane, Mercy for Animals (“MFA”), Rise for Animals, the Justice for Animals Program at the University of San Francisco’s School of Law, Professor Taimie Bryant at UCLA, Professor Douglas A. Kysar at Yale Law School, and Professor Rajesh Reddy at Lewis & Clark Law School.
In the case, which the United States Supreme Court will hear on October 11, the pork producers are challenging California’s Proposition 12, the 2018 law that requires that certain meat products and eggs sold in the state meet minimum humane, health, and safety standards. At stake is the right of California and other jurisdictions to rid their local markets of products produced through cruel practices, such as keeping pregnant sows in crates so small that they cannot turn around. With photographs and video, the amicus brief demonstrates the cruelty of these practices, and argues that allowing states to regulate practices stemming from cruelty to animals is consistent with long-recognized police powers and the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
Attorney Rebecca Garverman, a Clinical Fellow at Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic who worked on the brief with Clinic Director Katherine Meyer, said: “The intensive confinement addressed by Proposition 12 condemns a pregnant pig to spend most of her reproductive life in a tiny crate in which she can’t even turn around or engage in any normal behaviors. Our brief illustrates the cruelty and inhumanity of this kind of confinement with photographic and videographic evidence of pigs suffering in these horrific gestation crates. We urge the Supreme Court to uphold the right of states to regulate products sold within their borders by keeping the products of such cruelty off grocery shelves.”
In addition to the case presenting a serious threat to animal protection laws nationwide, the Supreme Court’s consideration of Proposition 12 carries implications far beyond the immediate controversy, according to an in-depth report also released today by Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Program (ALPP). The legal arguments the pork producers advance strike at the heart of the ability of states, counties, and cities to enact public health, consumer protection, and environmental measures. If the Supreme Court endorses the pork producers’ arguments, the report explains, challenges to a broad range of other state and local public policies could soon follow––including setting climate and clean energy standards, regulating cannabis, flavored tobacco, or car sales, prohibiting price gouging, and restricting the sale of carcinogenic or chemical-containing products. Many such laws indeed could be in jeopardy.
The 60-page report catalogues the myriad, diverse state laws and local ordinances that could be imperiled if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the pork producers. It also puts the producers’ challenge into legal and historical context, explaining the Commerce Clause arguments, providing a history of Proposition 12’s passage, and examining the failed legal challenges to similar laws that preceded the present case.
“California has the right to relieve animals from their suffering inside tiny, body-gripping cages, and to divest from the products of that cruel confinement,” says ALPP Legislative Policy Fellow Kelsey Eberly, who authored the report. “Yet the pork producers are asking the Supreme Court to strip states of their ability to not only ban cruel and unsafe products, but also combat climate change, protect consumers from financial scams, and much more, whenever regulation economically inconveniences out-of-state industries. These arguments lack any foundation in the Constitution.”
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