On Oct. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, a case that will likely determine the power of states to impose minimum animal welfare standards for animal products sold in their state. Many court observers were surprised to learn that the court had granted a writ of certiorari in this case as the same set of justices had rejected a similar petition challenging the same law in 2021. But perhaps because the petitioners learned from the denial of certiorari in the previous case, they were able to craft arguments that resulted in the court agreeing to hear the challenge this time around.

It surprises many people to learn that there are no federal standards whatsoever for how animals must be housed, fed or cared for while being raised on farms or inc oncentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs more commonly referred to as factory farms). No federal statute or regulation mandates any level of animal welfare for cattle, dairy cows, veal calves, pigs, chickens or any other animal raised for food. Federal law does not step in until the animals get on a slaughter truck. Then, there are exceedingly weak and nearly irrelevant standards for animals being transported to slaughter, the 28 Hour Law, 49 U.S.C. Section 80502, and a broad requirement that some animals need to be rendered insensible to pain prior to slaughter, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), 7 U.S.C. Sections 1901-1907. The HMSA affords no protection at all for poultry or rabbits slaughtered for food.