Supreme Court upholds California pig-pen law

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STORY: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a California law requiring pork products sold in the state come from humane pig pens.

In a five-to-four decision that crisscrossed the court’s usual partisan divide, the justices dealt a blow to pork producers who argued the law unfairly penalized out-of-state farmers.

California’s measure, approved by voters as a 2018 ballot initiative called Proposition 12, bars sales in California of pork, veal and eggs from animals whose confinement failed to meet certain minimum space requirements.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who authored the court’s main opinion wrote (quote):

“While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list.”

The court’s conservative chief justice, John Roberts, dissented, writing, “In my view, petitioners plausibly allege a substantial burden against interstate commerce,” Roberts wrote.

The industry had argued that the measure violated a U.S. Constitution provision called the Commerce Clause that courts have interpreted as empowering the federal government – not states – to regulate interstate commerce.

President Joe Biden’s administration sided with the pork producers in the case, saying that states cannot ban products that pose no threat to public health or safety due to philosophical objections.

California’s law mandates pig confinement spaces be large enough to enable the animals to turn around, lie down, stand up and extend their limbs.

Animal rights groups have said some pork producers confine pigs in cages so small that pigs cannot turn around for most of their lives.

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