Jan. 8, 2019 – In a victory that will likely prevent significant suffering for millions of farm animals, the Supreme Court today snuffed out efforts by the factory farming lobby and associated interests to overturn landmark laws against cage confinement in California and Massachusetts, and a California ban on the sale of foie gras.
The court declined to take up challenges to California and Massachusetts laws enacted in 2010 and 2016 prohibiting the sale of certain cruelly produced eggs, pork and veal — successful measures that the Humane Society of the United States and our allies worked hard to pass. This is also good news for California’s Proposition 12, which the state’s voters approved by a substantial majority two months ago. Prop 12 built on existing California law to ban the extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, mother pigs and calves raised for veal in cages so small they can barely move. Crucially, it also prohibits the sale of eggs, pork and veal from facilities that cruelly confine animals.
The Supreme Court also declined to take a case aimed at overturning another success, California’s ban on the sale of force-fed foie gras. Foie gras is produced by force-feeding a duck or goose such excessive amounts of food that his liver becomes swollen and diseased.
California lawmakers — at the behest of California voters, the HSUS, and other animal protection groups — banned the production and sale of force-fed foie gras more than a decade ago. Not surprisingly, foie gras producers sued and, on two separate appeals, lost in the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court’s decision today upholds that federal court’s most recent ruling, sparing thousands of birds from the inherent cruelty and suffering of force-feeding practices.
Voters throughout the country have consistently shown that they support animal welfare standards for products sold within their states. And courts have long held that states have the right under the Constitution to establish similar criteria. But some factory farming corporations hate the progress we’ve made in this area, and have spent years prevaricating and delaying instead of making reforms. These companies have tried to overturn the right of states to set these standards both in Congress and the courts. Despite the factory farming industry’s massive financial resources and its army of lobbyists and lawyers, we’ve repeatedly prevailed.
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With our coalition partners, we have also thwarted efforts by Rep. Steve King to pass a law in Congress that would have curtailed states’ abilities to regulate agricultural products. In addition, the HSUS’s legal team has helped defeat multiple legal challenges to state farm animal protection laws.
This time, the factory farming lobby convinced the attorneys general of several states to take their argument directly to the Supreme Court. But the Solicitor General of the United States (the top lawyer for the federal government) emphatically urged the Supreme Court to reject these cases, and the court agreed.
Major progress always results in major pushback and we suspect that some cruel pork, egg, veal and foie gras producers will continue to try to undermine the will of voters. But with you at our side, we expect to prevail against all challenges to our precedent-setting work in this area. Thank you for your support, which makes these victories today — and all the progress we have achieved for hens, ducks, geese, pigs and calves who suffer as a result of intensive confinement and other factory farming practices — possible.
Kitty Block is acting President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and President of Humane Society International, the international affiliate of The HSUS. www.humanesociety.org