Pork Industry Lawyer Argues Against Animal Protection Law Before SCOTUS

On October 11, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. The case centers on whether to uphold Proposition 12, California’s groundbreaking farmed animal protection law

The Supreme Court justices listened to arguments on this historic case for more than two hours—an unusually long time. Throughout its arguments, the meat industry continued to prove that it values profits above animal welfare and the will of the people.

Oral Arguments 

After losing in two lower courts, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down Prop 12. Their petition is supported by a wealth of special interest groups, including the North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

In very simple terms, these meat industry stakeholders argue that Prop 12 would force pork producers to make costly changes to their current practices. Essentially, the organizations believe the financial interests of pork producers outweigh Californians’ desire to protect farmed animals and the right to prevent unwanted products from entering their state. 

On October 11, a lawyer representing the NPPC and AFBF and a lawyer from the Department of Justice focused on the possible increased cost of eliminating some of the cruelest forms of animal confinement. Timothy S. Bishop, who represented the NPPC, stated:

“We sell everything except the oink” is the phrase. So the blood, the fat, the collagen—everything is sold, and it’s sold around the world in response to demand. Every piece of that pig is going to bear the cost, the significant cost, of raising pork the way that California demands.

The respondents argued that Prop 12 does not “force” pork producers in other states to change their standards. They are free to take their business elsewhere if they do not wish to comply. Questioning the NPPC and AFBF claim about increased cost, Justice Sotomayor said:

And why does that make a difference? Because no one’s forcing them to sell to California. They can sell to any other state that they prefer to sell to.

Jeffrey A. Lamken, representing the Humane Society of the United States, a respondent in the case alongside the State of California, stated:

Proposition 12 reflects a moral tradition that has been respected for millennia that consuming meat that is a product of animal cruelty is itself immoral. California chose to rid its markets of … some of those immoral products.

Clearly, the meat industry is more worried about saving money for pork producers in Iowa than the 7.5 million Californians who voted in favor of this measure. If the NPPC is successful, this case could have far-reaching consequences on the ability of states to protect the health, safety, and interests of their constituents.

Extreme Confinement

California voters passed Prop 12 in 2018, achieving incredible progress for farmed animals. The ballot measure outlawed some of the most extreme forms of animal confinement throughout the Golden State. When it was passed, the measure was the strongest farmed animal protection law in the world. 

While the meat industry prefers not to think of this as a “moral issue” and instead to focus on the “burden” placed on pork producers, our new investigation shows just how horrific extreme confinement is. On October 4, Mercy For Animals exposed the heartbreaking conditions pregnant pigs endure at factory farms—the type of cruelty the meat industry is fighting before the U.S. Supreme Court to keep.

Footage reveals rows and rows of pregnant pigs confined to gestation crates—each crate barely larger than a pig’s body—unable to lie down comfortably or even turn around. Deprived of mental stimulation, these pigs are driven mad by boredom and stress. These captive animals are unable to build nests, forage for food, or cool off in the mud, and they develop coping mechanisms known as “stereotypies”—swaying, nodding, or gnawing on the metal bars of their crates. While the footage is difficult to watch, it is important to see.

Take Action

In the coming months, a decision will be made on whether, as held by lower courts, the NPPC has failed to state a claim. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, the public’s desire to defend animals is clear! Please join Mercy For Animals in urging Congress to protect farmed animals in the Farm Bill.

As individuals, we can also choose not to be part of this cruel and unsustainable food system. The best way to help pigs and other farmed animals is to eat more plant-based meals. Visit ChooseVeg.com for plant-based tips, recipes, and more.

Cover Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media