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It’s pretty disheartening to see folks in the food system fight against having better living conditions for animals on farms. But that’s what we’re seeing this week as the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case against Proposition 12.
Prop 12, also known as the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative, is legislation in California prohibits farms from cruelly confining animals like hogs and chickens in facilities. Prop 12 also bans businesses in California from selling animal products produced under inhumane conditions, regardless of where the farm is located.
In 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved Prop 12.
“[Prop 12] is the most significant step forward in animal care, especially in the swine industry, probably in the history of the industry,” said Chris Oliviero, General Manager of Niman Ranch, during a recent Food Tank event. Niman Ranch, which supports sustainable family hog farming, has been vocal about their support for Prop 12, as have other industry players.
In the Supreme Court this week, the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation are fighting against Prop 12. They argue, essentially, that California shouldn’t be able to make laws that impact business practices in other states, and that farmers and consumers should make their own moral economic judgments.
I’ve been to factory farms. I’ve seen the poultry cages and hog gestation crates where pregnant sows don’t even have enough room to turn around. Animals just want to perform their natural animal behaviors, and the folks fighting against Prop 12 are pushing a more sustainable future further away from our reach.
This is not just about Prop 12—it’s about a food system that supports the welfare of everyone who is part of it, including farmers, ranchers, animals, communities, and the environment. It’s not just about California—it’s about a global shift away from unsustainable factory farming and inhumane practices.
And it’s not just about animals, either. This kind of intense livestock production can pollute air and waterways, create antibiotic resistant pathogens, and increase the likelihood for issues like food poisoning. And it’s also an issue of environmental justice: An analysis in North Carolina by the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance found that the negative side effects of factory farming excessively impact communities of color.
I’m both optimistic and, frankly, a little concerned about the state of global farm animal welfare right now. The Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, also known as Massachusetts ballot Q3, would not only stop inhumanely raised pork from being sold in the state but prohibit it from being shipped through the state. Q3 was approved by voters in 2016, but it’s on hold right now as California’s Prop 12 moves through the Supreme Court. And in Switzerland last month, voters rejected a proposal to ban factory farming altogether. Like Prop 12, the Swiss law would also have increased confined animals’ living space and access to the outdoors, but voters were concerned that feeding the country’s population would be difficult without factory farming.
We can’t let ourselves stop working once laws like Prop 12 or Q3 are approved or go into effect. Here’s the reality, Food Tankers: Farm animal welfare and food justice go hand-in-hand and are important toward building a more sustainable food future.
I’m fired up about this, and I hope you are too.
Let’s brainstorm—what legislators, advocates, business leaders, farmers, chefs, and more in your own communities can you talk to and partner with to encourage them to adopt more humane and sustainable animal and farm practices? Please email me at email@example.com.
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Photo courtesy of Amber Kipp, Unsplash