Meat Trade Group Advances Suit Against California

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A trade group for the U.S. meat industry says its members are being curtailed by a California anti-animal cruelty law that requires farm animals raised for consumption get more space.

The lawsuit filed by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), a trade group of big producers of meat found in grocery stores across the country, including Tyson Foods and Butterball, calls the California voter-approved law a detriment to its industry. It warns that prices will have to be raised for both farmers and consumers to sell their goods in the Golden State.

Producers claim they will have to remodel facilities to comply with Proposition 12, which requires producers to provide calves with 43 square feet of floor space, while pigs will need 24 square feet and hens 1 square foot under the provisions of the law that went into effect at the start of the year. The requirement for hens to live cage-free will go into effect in 2022.

NAMI seeks an injunction, arguing the sales ban of meat found out of compliance with Prop. 12 violates the Commerce Clause by creating a “trade barrier whose purpose and effect are to shield California producers from out-of-state competition.”

But last November U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder ruled against the group and allowed animal rights advocacy groups to join the suit as intervenors along with the state of California.

On Monday, Snyder said she would likely not dismiss the lawsuit but will give NAMI leave to amend its complaint to address issues about harm to its members.

NAMI’s attorney Paul Zidlicky with the Sidley Austin law firm argued California’s law becomes a regulation on how products are produced in other states because those producers will need to redesign how their operations are run if they want access to the California market.

“They’re eliminating pork and veal when it’s produced in a manner that they don’t like,” Zidlicky said of the California law.

In a tentative ruling shared with the attorneys, Snyder rejected NAMI’s argument that the California law regulates extraterritorially, or directly controls commerce outside the state.

Deputy Attorney General Matthew Wise said there is no evidence of discrimination against producers in other states and the plaintiffs did not present any evidence. But Snyder said if NAMI is bringing forth a claim that its members are being harmed then she would have to give them leave to amend because she has to take their allegations as fact at this stage of the proceedings.

“We all live in the Ninth Circuit. I have to give them leave to amend,” Snyder said. She added she would have to “let them take their best shot” because, whatever decision the court arrives on, the plaintiffs will have a higher likelihood to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals if they are not given leave to amend.

Snyder did not indicate when she would issue her ruling.

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