"Critical Role of States in Farm Animal Confinement and Sales Laws" by Rebecca Cary


As public awareness of the plight of farm animals has grown, so too has the call for more humane treatment. Consumers are demanding safer and more humane products on their grocery store shelves, and states have increasingly answered this call by passing ballot initiatives and other laws outlawing some of the cruelest confinement of farm animals and restricting the in-state sale of such products. As this presentation will explore, such confinement and sales laws fill a federal void in the regulation of on-farm treatment of farm animals. However, not everyone has applauded this new wave of farm animal laws. This presentation will address some of the ways states have legislated for farm animals before focusing on recent constitutional challenges to California’s confinement and sales laws from farm animal product producers and their allies. In doing so, the presentation will examine the constitutional authority for such state laws, and some of the outer limits of that authority—including constitutional vagueness, preemption, and the dormant Commerce Clause—while highlighting a challenge from pork producers that is currently playing out in the United States Supreme Court.