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California judge rules Prop 12 enforcement should be temporarily halted on whole pork sales

A California judge has ruled that Proposition 12 enforcement on whole-pork sales should be halted due to the state’s two-year delay in finalizing regulations. 

In a ruling on January 21, 2022, the Superior Court for Sacramento County granted the petitioners’ writ of mandate to delay the enforcement of Proposition 12 on sales of whole pork meat.

This suit listed the petitioners as the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce; Kruse and Son, Inc; California Grocers Association; California Restaurant Association; and the California Retailers Association. 

“The court will issue a declaration that [...] members and its members’ owners and operators are not subject to enforcement of the prohibition on sales of whole pork meat pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 25990(b)(2), as defined in Health and Safety Code Section 25991(e)(3), until 180 days after final regulations are enacted pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 25993, subd. (a).1,” according to the court ruling.

Proposition 12 was voted into California law in November 2018, as an addition to Proposition 2 and part of the Cruelty to Farm Animals Act. Its purpose was “to prevent animal cruelty by phasing out extreme methods of farm animal confinement.”

Under the new addition, there were multiple restrictions on the amount of space that an animal meant to be sold for slaughter or raised for eggs must have in order to be legally sold in the state of California.

The following guidelines took effect December 31, 2019:

  • Veal calves must have no less than 43 feet of usable pen space.
  • Egg-laying hens must have no less than 144 square inches of usable pen space.

The following guidelines took effect December 31, 2021:

  • Breeding pigs must have no less than 24 square feet of usable pen space.
  • Egg-laying hens must have no less than the amount of usable pen space per hen required by the 2017 edition of the United Egg Producers’ Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg-Laying Flocks: Guidelines for Cage-Free Housing, or in an enclosure other than cage-free housing system.

On December 3, 2021, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released a revised regulations list and enacted a 15-day period for comments. These proposed revisions would require distributors to register with the CDFA to engage in sales in California. These registrations would not be required until January 1, 2023, for pork distributors, and pork producers would not be required to obtain them until January 1, 2024.

The petitioners argued that these additional changes meant that final regulations were still not in effect. They asked the court to declare the square footage requirement of Proposition 12 that came into effect on January 1, 2022, be unenforceable until a final implementation of regulations is announced. The petitioners also for a period of 28 months after regulations are solidified until they are enforced.

The petitioners allege that this 28-month delay is the same amount of time between the original September 1, 2019, deadline and the proposed January 1, 2022, date the requirement would have taken effect. 

The court agreed that the petitioners were entitled to a delay, however, it disagreed that 28 months was an appropriate amount of time.

“The court must be mindful of the Act’s concern about cruel confinements, and the enforcement delay must not exceed a period that is necessary,” according to the decision. 

The writ of mandate will remain in effect until 180 days after the CDFA’s final regulations go into effect. The court said that once the final regulations have been announced, both parties may return for any appropriate adjustment to the writ of mandate’s date of effectiveness. 

The other regulations surrounding veal calves and poultry were not an issue in this lawsuit, and are still in effect. 

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