US federal court delays Massachusetts State law that would have banned pork sales from any animal not housed per state’s housing standards.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com
On August 11, 2022, a US federal court judge for the District of Massachusetts signed a court order approving an agreement to delay the enforcement of a state law that would have banned the sale of pork that comes from animals not housed according to the state’s prescriptive housing standards.
The state law, known as Question 3 (Q3), was a 2016 Massachusetts ballot initiative set to go into effect on August 15, 2022.
The Massachusetts’s Q3 is like California’s Proposition 12 (Prop 12)—currently being reviewed by the US Supreme Court—that would ban any uncooked whole pork meat sold in the state that does not meet specific sow housing requirements, regardless of where it was produced.
However, Q3 goes even further than Prop 12, as the Massachusetts law will ban shipment of whole pork through the state if the housing requirements were not met.
Not allowing this transportation, would affect some $2 billion worth of pork that moves into neighboring New England states.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the National Restaurant Association, and several New England restaurant and hospitality associations have filed suit to stop the law’s impeding implementation. The suit also asks the court to find the law unconstitutional.
“This (delay) is a significant outcome as NPPC continues to push to preserve the rights of America’s pig farmers to raise hogs in the way that is best for their animals and maintains a reliable supply of pork for consumers,” said Terry Wolters, the NPPC president and owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, Minnesota. “The impact of Question 3 would have been particularly harmful to those in surrounding New England states who did not have a vote in the 2016 Massachusetts referendum, nor any notice of the dramatic steps that activists had taken trying to force these harmful initiatives on voters in other states.”
However, not everyone agrees. The Humane Society of the United States led the Question 3 ballot campaign and are a lead with California on the Supreme Court case.
“Not only is the National Pork Producers Council on the wrong side of the legal argument, they’re defending the indefensible cruelty of confining a mother pig in a cage so small she’s unable to turn around for virtually her entire life. Fortunately, many small and large pork producers alike either don’t confine pigs in gestation crates or are moving away from this horrific abuse. Those attempting to continue this outdated practice are only attempting to delay the inevitable; when no pregnant pig is ever confined in a tiny cage again,” stated Josh Balk, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States.
The court ruling stated that the Q3 rule prohibiting sales of non-compliant pork should be put on hold at least until 30 days after the US Supreme Court issues a ruling in the lawsuit brought by NPPC and American Farm Bureau Federation to Proposition 12. This agreement is limited to only the pork sales provision of Q3, and producers located in Massachusetts are still required to comply with the in-state housing standards.
“Working cooperatively with the court and AG Healy’s office to ensure already-constrained supply chains continue to work despite this unconstitutional law is a win for American families and local economies in New England and around the country,” Wolters explained. “Thanks to this agreement, and court order, New Englanders can still enjoy their favorite pork products—from bacon to ribs and BBQ this Labor Day weekend and throughout the rest of the year.”
The NPPC states that pig farmers and swine veterinarians are in the best position to make decisions about how to care for their animals. It believes that activist-led ballot initiatives like those in California and Massachusetts risk reversing decades of progress on both animal health and on-farm sustainability, which could undermine the global competitiveness of the US pork industry.