BOSTON (State House News Service) – Massachusetts got a quick mention before the nation’s highest court on Tuesday when a Biden administration attorney pointed to the Bay State as an outlier in seeking to regulate the sale of pork based on how it was produced in other states.
The U.S. Supreme Court dove into a case with major implications for Massachusetts, hearing more than two hours of arguments about the constitutionality of a California law dealing with animal welfare standards for breeding pigs. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, who joined an attorney for the pork industry groups calling for the law to be ruled unconstitutional, told justices that California and Massachusetts stand apart from other states that have imposed regulations on how farm animals must be housed.
“With respect to the specific context here, there are states that ban raising pigs using gestation pens, let’s say, but most of those are just limited to the state where the pigs are being raised,” Kneedler said. “Massachusetts also has an extra ban.”
The California law voters enacted in 2018 requires producers within state lines to house breeding pigs in larger spaces and prohibits the sale of pork derived from any animal whose living conditions violate those standards, even if the meat was shipped in from another state. Pork industry groups sued, alleging the law unconstitutionally limits production methods outside state lines. Attorneys for California and animal welfare groups defend the law as an allowable limit only on in-state sales that does not force any farmer or manufacturer to change their business practices.
“California voters chose to pay higher prices to serve their local interest in refusing to provide a market to products they viewed as morally objectionable and potentially unsafe,” California Solicitor General Michael Mongan said Tuesday. “The commerce clause (of the U.S. Constitution) does not prohibit that choice.”
Similar regulations in Massachusetts were set to kick in Aug. 15 but are now on hold while state officials await the outcome of the Supreme Court case dealing with the California law.