Trade Association Challenges California's Animal Confinement Law

October 4, 2019 | Kitt Tovar

On October 4, 2019, the North American Meat Institute (AMI) filed a complaint against the state of California over Proposition 12, which passed last year. The complaint alleges Proposition 12 violates the Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state veal and pork producers through a sales ban on veal and pork products not raised under certain conditions.


In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 2 known as the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.” The purpose of this measure was to prohibit farm animals from being confined in a cruel manner. It specifically prohibits confinement that does not allow them to turn around, lie down, stand up, or fully extend their limbs. The proposition applies to “covered animals” which is defined as pigs during pregnancy, veal calves, and egg-laying hens. Those animals may not be confined in commonly used housing systems for their species, by prohibiting gestation stalls, veal crates, or battery cages.

The statute went into effect on January 1, 2015. At that point, the law required California farmers to provide the new space requirements for their animals. Complying with the regulations cost California egg producers an estimated $250 million.[1] This would necessarily mean the cost is passed through to the consumer in the form of higher prices for these products, especially eggs.

Concerned that local producers unable to compete with out-of-state producers, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1437 in 2010. This law prohibits the sale of shelled eggs if it is the product of a hen that was not raised in accordance with Proposition 2. Several states sued on behalf of the citizens of those states claiming the law to be invalid because it violated the Commerce Clause and it was preempted by the Federal Egg Products Inspection Act. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the case finding the plaintiffs did not have standing. In 2019, the Supreme Court decline to hear the case. For more information, click here.

Current Lawsuit

In November 2018, the California voters enacted Proposition 12. This law created new minimum size requirements for confinement of breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens. It prohibited confining any covered animal in a cruel manner and established minimum space requirements for those animals. Additionally, the law prohibited any business from selling whole veal meat and whole pork meat if the animal was confined in a cruel manner, or, in the case of pork, is the offspring of an animal who was confined in a cruel manner.

AMI claims Proposition 12 violated the Commerce Clause by discriminating against of out-of-state-producers of pork and veal; violating the constitutional prohibition on extraterritorial state regulation; and by imposing unreasonable burdens on interstate and foreign commerce. AMI is seeking to have the court declare the sales ban on pork and veal unconstitutional, is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction preventing the implementation of the sales ban, and is seeking costs and attorneys’ fees.

We will keep you posted on this case as it continues to develop.