Animal Equality’s Legal Advocacy Team Continues Fight for Animal Protections

Our Legal Advocacy team has been busy on numerous fronts, working hard to push back against unconstitutional laws and dangerous rules, as well as maintaining hard-fought victories for animals. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been doing:

CHALLENGING INCREASED SLAUGHTER LINE SPEEDS (Farm Sanctuary v. USDA): Animal Equality is suing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to strike down its unlawful new rule that allows slaughter operations to kill unlimited numbers of pigs per hour and also shifts certain responsibilities from federal inspectors to the slaughterhouse’s own employees. These changes put pigs at increased risk of cruel treatment and abuse. The USDA asked the court to dismiss the case, and we responded with written arguments and affidavits and requested a hearing. Both sides’ arguments on whether to allow the case to proceed are now before the court, and we await its ruling.

UPHOLDING FARMED ANIMAL PROTECTIONS IN CALIFORNIA (N. Am. Meat Inst. v. Becerra and Natl. Pork Producers Council v. Ross): In order to uphold historic protections for farmed animals in California, Animal Equality has intervened in two separate lawsuits brought by various meat industry groups seeking to undo animal activists’ progress in the state. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) are attempting to strike down provisions of California’s Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, also known as Proposition 12 (“Prop 12”).

Prop 12 passed via ballot initiative in 2018 when two-thirds of Californians voted to ban the sale of certain products from hens, pigs, and calves confined in ways the law deems particularly cruel. In addition to establishing larger minimum space requirements for these animals raised within California, the law specifically prohibits the in-state sale of eggs, pork, and veal produced in a manner not in accordance with Prop 12’s minimum standards, regardless of where they were produced. The meat industry’s main argument is that these sales-ban provisions unconstitutionally restrict interstate commerce in violation of the U.S. Constitution. We have had preliminary successes at the district court level in both cases. The meat industry is now appealing, and oral argument in one of the cases will take place via videoconference before the federal court of appeals on June 5.

Case-Specific Updates:

  • NAMI v. Becerra: In addition to requesting that the sales ban be struck down, NAMI also asked the court to prevent the law from taking effect while this lawsuit is ongoing. Animal Equality opposed this motion, and the court agreed with us, denying NAMI’s request. As a result, Prop 12’s ban on the sale of eggs and veal products from animals who were not provided with a minimum amount of space took effect on January 1, 2020, as scheduled. (The ban on the sale of nonconforming pork products does not take effect until January 1, 2022.) NAMI is appealing the court’s refusal to place the law on hold. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments via videoconference on June 5.
  • NPPC v. Ross: Like NAMI, these meat-industry plaintiffs argue Prop 12’s sales ban is unconstitutional because it allegedly regulates the practices of out-of-state producers by requiring them to conform to California’s standards in order to sell their products in the state. On April 27, the court granted Animal Equality’s motion to throw out the case, agreeing with our position that the law does not unlawfully regulate producers outside of California, nor does it unlawfully impede interstate commerce.

CHALLENGING TYSON’S DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING (Food & Water Watch v. Tyson Foods, Inc.): Animal Equality is litigating a case in D.C. court against Tyson Foods for the company’s misleading use of animal welfare terminology and imagery to market its chicken products. Settlement negotiations are ongoing, and we will continue to vigorously pursue the case in court unless and until Tyson agrees to adequately address our concerns.

FIGHTING ARKANSAS’S AG-GAG LAW (ALDF v. Vaught): Last summer, Animal Equality filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arkansas seeking to strike down as unconstitutional a law that effectively prohibits undercover investigations like the ones Animal Equality is known for. The district court, in a patently incorrect ruling back in February, held the case should be dismissed on the grounds that Animal Equality and our co-plaintiffs are not sufficiently injured by the law to justify bringing suit. Yet, considering that the law directly violates our constitutionally protected right to blow the whistle on Arkansas companies for their abuse of animals in agriculture, we have appealed that ruling and are currently briefing the case before the Eight Circuit.

SUPPORTING CONSUMER PROTECTION ACTION AGAINST HORMEL FOODS (ALDF v. Hormel): In August of last year, Animal Equality submitted an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of a consumer protection action against Hormel Foods. Similar to Animal Equality’s lawsuit against Tyson mentioned above, this case challenges Hormel’s misrepresentations to consumers that its “Natural Choice” pork products meet certain animal welfare standards that they do not. We are still waiting on the court’s final ruling in that case. If the case is successful, Hormel will need to either improve its practices to meet consumer expectations or remove the claims from its marketing materials.

CHALLENGING ‘HUMANE-WASHING’ IN THE PET FOOD INDUSTRY: In addition to our false-advertising litigation against companies like Tyson, Animal Equality has recently turned its sights on pet food brands as well. Some pet food companies have begun to use similarly misleading marketing tactics concerning the treatment of the animals who become pet food ingredients. These cases are still in development, so we cannot provide more details at this time, but stay tuned! Using this strategy, we have the opportunity to go after an entirely new sector of misleading animal products and hopefully stem the same abuses (and often worse) as those in the human food sector.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: As we navigate the court system with these various cases, we’re also continuing to release important campaigns and investigations that will change the lives of millions of farmed animals. Your participation in our work is crucially important, be it by signing petitions, choosing plant-based options, or, crucially, contacting your representatives to demand better protections for animals. You can also help by signing up to become an Animal Protector and help us take on these monstrous corporations by taking part in easy online actions. Sign up today and start making a difference for animals!