Defending California’s Proposition 12 Against Iowa Industry Group’s Challenge
Iowa Pork Producers Association v. Bonta
The Animal Legal Defense Fund's coalition is helping defend Prop 12, California's landmark farmed animal protection law.
Plaintiff opening brief due by 7/11
For the third time, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and coalition partners have stepped in to help defend California’s landmark farmed animal protection law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act — also known as Proposition 12 or Prop 12.
In 2018, California voters overwhelmingly approved Prop 12, which protects mother pigs, chickens used in egg production, and calves raised for veal from some of the cruelest forms of intensive confinement.
On factory farms, these animals are commonly confined in crates and cages so small that they cannot even turn around or flap their wings. Prop 12 increases the minimum space requirements for mother pigs, chickens in the egg industry, and calves raised for veal, and prohibits these animals from being confined in a way that “prevents [them] from lying down, standing up, fully extending [their] limbs, or turning around freely.”
Notably, Prop 12 applies not just to animals raised in California, but also to animals raised for pork, eggs, and veal imported into the state — banning the sale of these products in California if they were produced anywhere in the country using housing systems that don’t meet the law’s space requirements. Prop 12 provided a phase-in period of several years to allow producers to make the upgrades required to sell their products in California.
Californians weren’t confused when they approved Prop 12; by passing the law, they stated their support for banning some of the cruelest conditions on factory farms, where the vast majority of animals who enter the U.S. food supply are raised. But the factory farming industry wasn’t content to accept the will of the voters. Instead, in multiple court challenges, industry groups have sought to overturn the law.
Defending States’ Ability to Pass Animal Protection Laws
Previously, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and coalition partners intervened in two other industry challenges to help California defend the constitutionality of Prop 12 in North American Meat Institute v. Becerra and National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. Both cases have been uniformly decided in the animals’ favor at both the district court and appeals court levels.
But the industry wasn’t done with its legal challenges. The most recent effort is Iowa Pork Producers Association v. Bonta, a lawsuit brought by an Iowa-based industry group with several individual pig farms as co-plaintiffs. In January 2022, our coalition petitioned to intervene in the case, once again seeking to help California defend its farmed animal protection law.
Each time a court has heard a Prop 12-related lawsuit, it has found that the law does not violate the Constitution. But like its predecessors, the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s lawsuit argues that Prop 12 is unconstitutional.
The earlier cases both centered on the assertion that Prop 12 unconstitutionally restricts interstate commerce — an argument that has been roundly rejected by multiple federal courts. In its lawsuit, the Iowa Pork Producers Association makes a similar interstate commerce claim, as well as introducing several new constitutional arguments involving due process, federal authority, and a claim that the law unfairly discriminates against out-of-state producers in violation of the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause.
This Iowa Pork Producers Association case — initially filed in Iowa state court before being transferred to Iowa federal court, dismissed, and refiled in California — was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in March 2022. The industry group has appealed its loss to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In addition to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the coalition of animal protection organizations intervening in this lawsuit includes the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Equality, Animal Outlook, Farm Sanctuary, Compassion in World Farming, and the Humane League. Pro bono representation is being provided in this case by Bruce Wagman of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP.
Who is being sued, why, and under what law? In its attempt to overturn California’s Prop 12, the Iowa Pork Producers Association and its co-plaintiffs bring claims under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause, Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the Due Process Clause.
What court is the lawsuit filed in? The case was originally filed in Iowa state court, but was transferred to Iowa federal court, dismissed, and refiled in California, eventually being heard by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. After the district court dismissed the case, the Iowa Pork Producers Association appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case will next be heard.
Why this case is important: Farmed animals are among the most commonly abused animals on Earth, with fewer protections under the law than other animals such as cats and dogs. By passing Prop 12, California voters made it clear they want to protect farmed animals from some of the most pervasive forms of factory farm cruelty: intensive confinement in crates and cages so small as to virtually immobilize them for the majority of their lives.
This extreme confinement is not only cruel to animals — it’s also hazardous to public health. Keeping animals in cramped, stressful conditions puts them at increased risk of contracting and spreading zoonotic diseases — those that can spread between animals and humans.
States have the right to enact their own animal protection laws; indeed, multiple states have followed California’s lead in passing laws that prohibit certain forms of intensive confinement. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is committed to advocating for the passage of such laws and defending the ability of states to enact and enforce them.
March 30, 2022
The Iowa Pork Producers Association appeals its case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
March 29, 2022
The case is formally dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
February 28, 2022
Arguments in the case are held before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
January 31, 2022
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and coalition partners petition to intervene in the case, seeking to help California defend Prop 12. The request is later granted by the court.
November 9, 2021
The Iowa Pork Producers Association refiles its case in the Fresno County Superior Court. The case is later transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
May 20, 2021
The Iowa Pork Producers Association and individual farm operators file a lawsuit challenging Prop 12 in Iowa state court. The case is later transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, where it is dismissed in August 2021.
November 6, 2018
The Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, a ballot initiative also known as Proposition 12 or Prop 12, passes in California with 63% of the vote. Prop 12 builds on an earlier state farmed animal protection initiative, Prop 2, approved by California voters in 2008.