Supreme Court Rejects Pork-Industry Challenge to California’s Animal-Cruelty Law

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a California law setting animal-welfare standards for pork sold within the state, rejecting a bid by out-of-state industry to limit a state’s regulatory power over its own marketplace.

With nearly all pork Californians eat produced in other states, the meatpacking industry said Proposition 12, a 2018 state ballot initiative requiring minimum cage sizes for pigs whose meat is sold in California, violated constitutional provisions giving Congress power over interstate commerce.

Not so, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.

“While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list,” he said.

Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the U.S., which intervened to help defend Proposition 12, said the court “made clear that preventing animal cruelty and protecting public health are core functions of our state governments.

“It’s astonishing that pork industry leaders would waste so much time and money on fighting this commonsense step to prevent products of relentless, unbearable animal suffering from being sold in California,” Ms. Block said.

Scott Hays, president of the National Pork Producers Association, which challenged Proposition 12, said the group was still studying the opinion. “Allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation,” said Mr. Hays, owner of Two Mile Pork in Monroe City, Mo.

Supporters of Proposition 12 have called it the nation’s strongest animal-welfare law. It prohibits the sale in California of meat and eggs from animals raised using certain kinds of extreme confinement.