This month a federal court blocked the state of Arkansas from enforcing its meat-label censorship law. The state’s law bans companies from using words like “bacon,” “milk,” “burger,” “sausage,” and “roast” to describe plant-based products. Violators would be forced to pay fines of up to $1,000 for each individual label! In fact, the law is so restrictive that companies like Tofurky would be forced to change their packaging.
In July, Tofurky and the ACLU sued the state of Arkansas over the law. The ACLU stated that Act 501 was “specifically designed to disadvantage purveyors of plant and cell-based meat.” The groups argue that the law violates the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause by censoring truthful speech and protecting the state’s meat and other industries from fair plant-based competition.
The federal court’s block will remain in effect as the lawsuit proceeds. The state claims that the law is needed to avoid “consumer confusion” about the source of veggie burgers and other such products—plants or animals?—but has provided no evidence to support this.
Vegan brand Upton’s Naturals and the Plant Based Foods Association are fighting a similar state law in Mississippi, which bans companies from using “meat” terms on packages for plant-based and cultivated (cell-based) meat products. They filed a federal lawsuit the day the law went into effect, arguing that the law violates their First Amendment right to free speech and that it would harm businesses by forcing them to make expensive changes to their packaging.
California courts recently struck down a related claim that terms like “almond milk” and “soy milk” confused consumers. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California stated:
The claim stretches the bounds of credibility. Under Plaintiff’s logic, a reasonable consumer might also believe that veggie bacon contains pork, that flourless chocolate cake contains flour, or that e-books are made out of paper.
The factory farming industry is looking for technicalities to stem the rise of plant-based meat and milk products. It’s no wonder the industry feels threatened: Dairy-free milk sales are soaring while cow’s milk sales are in a decades-long decline. What’s more, according to some projections, the plant-based meat market could reach 27.9 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.