A case before the U.S. Supreme Court — derived from a California ballot measure — could decide the fate of current and future state laws related to the climate crisis, harmful compounds in consumer products, and even the safety of baby food.
The case involves Proposition 12, which was passed in landslide fashion in 2018 by 63% of California voters. Proposition 12 bans the in-state production and sale of veal, pork and eggs from cruelly confined animals.
In addition to causing massive animal suffering, cruel confinement and the associated concentration of animal facilities increase air and water pollution. They also lead to higher food safety and disease risks. As the chicken industry’s own trade publication, Poultry World, reported, “Salmonella thrives in cage housing.”
After losing on Election Day, the corporate pork industry looked to overturn the voters’ approval of Proposition 12 via numerous lawsuits.
In a 2020 report titled “Preventing the Next Pandemic,” the United Nations named intensification of animal agriculture as a leading disease threat.
After losing on Election Day, the corporate pork industry looked to overturn the voters’ approval of Proposition 12 via numerous lawsuits. So far, all have failed and no judge — whether appointed by a Democrat or Republican — has ruled that Proposition 12 is unconstitutional. However, one of the losing suits, the National Pork Producers Council v Ross, will be heard by the Supreme Court this fall.
What does this have to do with climate change or consumer product laws?
Pork producers argue that California shouldn’t have the right to pass laws requiring companies, including those located out of the state, to make changes to their production practices to continue selling their products in California.
As the pork industry’s argument is presented, consolidated multi-state industries are too big to be regulated — no matter if they make food unsafe, cause animals to be abused, or emit unacceptable levels of greenhouse gases.
If the Supreme Court agrees with the pork producers’ extreme arguments, it could lead to a significant setback in the fight against climate change.
Biden administration officials must choose between endorsing the Trump administration’s position or supporting Proposition 12.
In our state alone, laws potentially at risk include those setting car emissions standards, low-carbon fuel requirements, greenhouse gas limits for power grids, cleaner fuel criteria for ships, and the elimination of PFAS from certain consumer products. Industry forces will likely argue that all of these laws have some effect on corporations that operate outside of California.
Previously, the Trump administration filed a brief supporting the pork industry’s lawsuit. Now, Biden officials must choose between endorsing the Trump administration’s position or supporting Proposition 12 and states’ abilities to pass laws that improve public health and safety.
Understanding the gravity of this case, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla have organized several letters with their Senate colleagues urging the Biden administration to support Proposition 12 before the Supreme Court.
More than two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives from California were part of a letter signed by 100 members from across the country also imploring the Biden administration to take the right position. Seventeen California state lawmakers did the same. Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office has been undefeated in its defense of Proposition 12 in the courts.
Editor’s Note: Jennifer Molidor is the Senior Food Campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity and lives in Northern California.