LOS ANGELES – The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) lost an appeal of a district court ruling that rejected the organization’s request for a preliminary injunction against Proposition 12. A three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld California’s Proposition 12 law that establishes meat production standards that apply to producers outside of the state.

“We are disappointed in the ruling and are reviewing our options,” NAMI said. “California should not be able to dictate farming practices across the nation.”

Proposition 12 was enacted by California voters in 2018. Under the law, producers of veal calves were required to house animals with at least 43 square feet of usable floor space per calf. Beginning in 2022, sows will need a minimum of 24 square feet of usable space per animal and laying hens will be cage-free. Proposition 12 builds on Proposition 2 — approved by voters in 2008 — which mandates cages for egg-laying hens must be large enough for the birds to stand up, lie down and extend their wings. Meat, poultry and eggs not produced under these standards cannot be sold in California.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) applauded the court’s decision.

“We’re pleased that the judicial system has again affirmed that each state has the right to ban the sale of products within its borders produced through cruel factory farming methods,” said Rebecca Cary, senior staff attorney at HSUS. “Rather than continuing to squander their members’ money on losing frivolous lawsuits, the meat industry trade groups should instead invest in improving animal welfare and complying with animal cruelty laws. The Humane Society and our allies will keep fighting in courts, legislatures and corporate boardrooms to stop the horrific practice of locking farm animals in cages so small and cramped they barely move.”

In November of 2019, US District Court Judge Christina Snyder denied NAMI’s request for a preliminary injunction against Proposition 12 finding that the law did not have a discriminatory purpose and applies equally to animals raised and slaughtered in California as they do to animals raised and slaughtered in any other state.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) launched a challenge to Prop 12 in December of 2019, but a federal judge dismissed that case in April. The groups filed an appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in September; a ruling for that case is pending.

“We cannot speak to challenges filed by other organizations. NPPC and AFBF have fundamentally different interests at stake than NAMI,” said Travis Cushman, AFBF senior council for public policy. “We represent the actual farmers who raise these sows and are being told that they must forfeit control over how they run their farms.
“Additionally, we share the goal of ensuring animals are well cared for, but this law fails to advance that goal and will also have other serious consequences, he said. “Californians who supported Prop 12 and believed it would improve animal welfare were not presented a complete picture regarding the trade-offs of different animal housing systems and the complexity of animal care decisions.”