Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law


13 states are asking the Supreme Court to block Massachusetts’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (“the Animal Law”), claiming this law impermissibly discriminates against out-of-state producers. States challenging the law include Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin (“Plaintiff States”). The case was filed on December 11, 2017 and can be accessed here.

Massachusetts’s Animal Law prohibits farmers both inside and outside the state from selling eggs, pork, or veal from an animal confined in a “cruel manner,” defined as “confined so as to prevent a covered animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending the animal’s limbs, or turning around freely” (See Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 129 App. §§ 1-1 et seq.).

The law does not go into effect until January 1, 2022, however, Plaintiff States stress the significant financial investment needed to prepare immediately for compliance. Plaintiff States claim that compliance with the Animal Law will either decrease production or require farmers to invest significant additional resources into their operations. As a result, the law will increase costs to consumers across the nation in the purchase of eggs, pork, and veal.

Plaintiff States claim these regulations violate the Commerce Clause, which prohibits any state from purporting to impose on goods shipped in interstate commerce any standards of quality or condition that are in addition to or different from federal standards. Facially discriminatory regulations against non-state producers are strictly construed, and regulations which discriminate against interstate commerce incidentally are invalid if the imposed burdens on interstate commerce that are clearly excessive in relation to any local benefits. Plaintiff States specifically claim that the Animal Law constitutes economic protectionism and extraterritorial regulation, violating the Commerce Clause.

Petitioning states seek injunctive relief from the Supreme Court.