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Question 3 Survives in Massachusetts
By Todd Neeley
Tuesday, July 23, 2024 8:32AM CDT

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Massachusetts' animal welfare law was allowed to stand on Monday after a federal court ruled the Federal Meat Inspection Act does not preempt the Massachusetts Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act created as a result of a ballot initiative passed by voters.

The state's law bans the sale of pork meat that doesn't meet sow housing requirements no matter where it is produced. In February the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that an exemption from the animal welfare law for federally licensed meat-processing plants operating in the state was unconstitutional.

Food companies and farms led by Triumph Foods LLC, based in St. Joseph, Missouri, motioned the court to sever the sales ban from the law. Doing so would have made the law applicable only to farm owners in the state.

The companies argued the sales ban should be severed because it includes pork sold by federal facilities. Pork producers represented in the case reside in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri, Wyoming and Indiana.

U.S. District Judge William G. Young said in his ruling that there was no conflict between the federal and state laws.

"The purpose of the FMIA is 'adequately' to 'protect' 'the health of the consumer' through the intended effect of 'a uniform framework' of federal and state meat inspection programs," Young writes in the ruling.

"The act, in contrast, seeks to prevent the sale of pork raised in inhumane conditions, without concern for whether that meat is safe to eat (in other words, an otherwise healthy pork product could be noncompliant with the act, not because it is considered unhealthy, but because the policy preferences of the Massachusetts voters demand it not be eligible for sale). There is nothing in the record to indicate that since the act's enactment, obstacles have occurred in ensuring safe and healthy pork in the Massachusetts market through the FMIA."

In addition, he said Triumph Foods already has implemented a system that allows it to separate compliant and non-compliant pork to be sold in Massachusetts. The company processed over 11 million pounds of pork meat sold in the state in 2022.

"Triumph estimates it is processing approximately 58,000 pigs per month in compliance with the act, which Triumph estimates to be about 700,000 compliant pigs (or 70 million pounds) per year available through Triumph," the judge said in the ruling.

The farms and pork processors that took legal action also include Christensen Farms Midwest LLC, The Hanor Company of Wisconsin LLC, New Fashion Pork LLC, Eichelberger Farms Inc., and Allied Producers' Cooperative. Thirteen states also joined the lawsuit.

Thirteen states signed on to an amicus brief in support of the companies, including Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

While the law facially appears to regulate just the sales of pork in Massachusetts, the 13 states have said it has a much broader effect on farms and companies across the country.

In May 2023, the Supreme Court upheld California's animal welfare law created as a result of Proposition 12, which was modeled after the Massachusetts law.

"Massachusetts voters said no to extreme confinement in a landslide vote nearly eight years ago and the federal courts have again upheld their right to reject this form of institutionalized cruelty to animals," said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and an architect of Question 3.

Read more on DTN:

"Triumph: Toss Question 3 Pork Sale Ban," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"Massachusetts Animal Welfare Law Facing Scrutiny," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on social platform X @DTNeeley


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