Defending California’s Proposition 12 from NAMI

A coalition of animal protection organizations filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to join California in defending the constitutionality of the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act.


December 27, 2019

Work Type




Motion to intervene granted

Next Step

Hearing on motion to dismiss

February 24, 2020

In October 2019, a coalition of animal protection organizations filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act and preserve California’s right to ban cruelly produced animal products.

In 2018, Californians voted to strengthen the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, taking a major step toward eliminating from the state’s market products produced through some of animal agriculture’s cruelest confinement practices. The law, adopted by voters as Proposition 12 (or Prop 12), mandates that pork, veal, and eggs produced and sold in the state comply with minimum space allowances for mother pigs, calves, and egg-laying hens. Prop 12 builds upon previous farmed animal measures in the state that prohibit cruelly confining farmed animals in California. Prop 12 passed easily with 63% of the vote.

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) filed a lawsuit contending the California law violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, attacking the state’s well-founded prerogative to protect animals and ban the sale of cruelly produced products. NAMI has moved for a preliminary injunction to attempt to stop the sales ban provisions from going into effect. (Prop 12 goes into effect in two stages: Starting in 2020, calves raised for veal cannot be confined to spaces with less than 43 square feet of floor space, egg-laying hens must not be confined in spaces with less than 1 square foot per hen, and veal and eggs cannot be sold in the state unless they meet these minimum standards. Beginning in 2022, mother pigs cannot be confined to spaces with less than 24 square feet for each pig, egg-laying hens must not be confined to cages at all, and pork and eggs that fail to comply with these standards cannot be sold in California.)

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, The Humane League, Compassion in World Farming USA, Animal Equality, and Compassion Over Killing filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, to join the state of California in defending Prop 12’s constitutionality and preserving California’s right to ban the sale of cruelly-produced animal products.

Who is being sued, why, and under what law? California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, and Department of Public Health Acting Director Sonia Angell are being sued by the North American Meat Institute, which is challenging Proposition 12’s ban on the sale of pork and veal from cruelly confined pigs and calves, on the grounds that the provisions violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is part of a coalition seeking to defend the law’s constitutionality.

Why this case is important: Farmed animals are routinely subject to abusive conditions, but have few legal protections. Animals used in animal agriculture are treated as commodities rather than living, feeling beings. When standard industry practices — which affect billions of animals — include confining animals in cramped crates and cages for the duration of their lives with barely room to move, let alone go outdoors or engage in natural behaviors, laws like Prop 12 make significant progress.

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