Why California’s Animal Welfare Law Is Unconstitutional


Written by John Seiler

October 12, 2022


The major reason why America is so prosperous is the Interstate Commerce clause of U.S. Constitution. It established a vast, continent-wide free-trade zone. California imposes no tariffs on Fords made in Michigan. And Michigan imposes no tariffs on Teslas made in California.

There are some exceptions, but they have to be pretty good ones. When you drive into California from Arizona, you might get stopped at the agricultural checkpoints on the border. The reason is to make sure vermin aren’t infesting goods shipped into the Golden State.

California also imposes the nation’s strictest smog standards for cars. Again, that’s a health concern partly due to the Los Angeles Basin’s unique weather, which is a “marine inversion” in which hot air presses down on the basin, keeping smog from dissipating.

That’s why I think the U.S. Supreme Court will throw out California’s extreme law against animal cruelty. The law was Proposition 12 from 2018, passed by 63 percent of voters. It mandated more space for breeding pigs, calves raised for veal, and chickens laying eggs.

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Free range chickens on a farm near Vacaville, Calif. (Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

It mainly was supported by animal-rights groups and was opposed by farmers. Ads like this one showing suffering animals usually win with voters. No indication if the animals depicted were in California or somewhere else.

Prop. 12 never has been implemented because it was appealed by the National Pork Producers Council and the case now in front of the highest court. Even the liberals on the court seem dubious about the law.

“We live in a divided country,” Justice Elena Kagan said from the bench at an Oct. 11 hearing, “and the balkanization that the framers were concerned about is surely present today.”

Wondered Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest court member and a liberal appointed by President Biden, “Why couldn’t the state advance its interest in a less burdensome way?”

Asked Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, “So, could you have California pass a law that said we’re not going to buy any pork from companies that don’t require all their employees to be vaccinated, or from corporations that don’t fund gender-affirming surgery?”

The Biden administration was represented by Solicitor Gen. Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who said in a brief, “California has no legitimate interest in the housing conditions of out-of-state animals. States may not otherwise regulate out-of-state entities by banning products that pose no threat to public health or safety based on philosophical objections to out-of-state production methods or public policies that have no impact in the regulating state.”

Epoch Times Photo
The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The articles don’t mention it, but national and international politics also could be a factor in this case, as Kagan hinted. President Biden’s first formal National Security Strategy (pdf), released Oct. 12, starting on p. 23 fingers China as “the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.”


Our strategy toward the PRC is threefold: 1) to invest in the foundations of our strength at home—our competitiveness, our innovation, our resilience, our democracy, 2) to align our efforts with our network of allies and partners, acting with common purpose and in common cause, and 3) compete responsibly with the PRC to defend our interests and build our vision for the future. The first two elements—invest and align—are described in the previous section and are essential to outcompeting the PRC in the technological, economic, political, military, intelligence, and global governance domains.

Well, that’s not going to work too well if the U.S. economy starts balkanizing. If Prop. 12 is allowed to stand, California will pass more laws restricting freedom of trade. Other states will follow suit. The Interstate Commerce Clause will become moot. Will Michigan impose special burdens on California-made Teslas? Will Fords be banned in California?

That also has implications for the ban, by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Air Resources Board, on selling new vehicles powered by gas or diesel by 2035. But what about new gas cars bought in other states and brought into California? The Supreme Court eventually will have to sort out that one, too.

If you’ve ever lived in Washington, D.C., as I did from 1982-87, you find out it’s a remarkably provincial city. It has one business: government. People from the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the bureaucracies co-mingle at parties and sports events. They marry each other.

And there’s the old saying, “The Supreme Court reads the papers.”

In that regard, the justices no doubt are reading Oct. 12’s headline of food inflation up 11.9 percent in September over a year ago. Hyper-regulating trade in pork, chicken, and veal would only drive prices even higher.

Put another way, the Supreme Court eats pork, chicken, and veal.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

By Epoch Times




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