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Should Californians be able to require higher welfare standards for farm animals that are raised in other states if products from those animals are to be sold in California?
Pork producers are challenging a law that California voters adopted in 2018 via ballot initiative with over 63% approval. It set new conditions for raising hogs, veal calves and egg-laying chickens, whose meat or eggs are sold in California. The state represents about 15% of the U.S. pork market.
At most commercial hog farms, pregnant sows are kept in “gestation crates” that measure 2 feet by 7 feet – enough room for the animals to sit, stand and lie down, but not enough to turn around. California’s law requires that each sow must have at least 24 square feet of floor space – nearly double the amount that most now get. It does not require farmers to raise free-range pigs, just to provide more square feet when they keep hogs in buildings.
The National Pork Producers Council argues that this requirement imposes heavy compliance costs on farmers across the U.S., since large hog farms may house thousands of sows and that it restricts interstate commerce.
Farmers and animal welfare advocates understand that if California wins, states with the most progressive animal welfare policies – primarily West Coast and Northeast states – will be able to effectively set national standards for the well-being of many agricultural animals, including chickens, dairy and cattle. Conceivably, California might also be able to require basic conditions for human labor, such as minimum wage standards, associated with products sold in California.
Nine other states have already adopted laws requiring pork producers to phase out gestation crates.
- How would John Marshall analyze the constitutional issue presented by the California law? Would Marshall probably uphold the law or not?
- How would the Cooley standard by applied here? Under that standard, would the law be constitutional or not?
- Does this law discriminate against interstate commerce?
- What factors would go into modern balancing analysis? Would the law likely be upheld or not?