Caitlin C. Robb


animal welfare, Commerce Clause, Proposition 12, Prop 12, pork, Body of Liberties, animal cruelty

Document Type



Since the eighteenth century, animal well-being remains a concern for American citizens. Yet, underlying this concern is the thought that while humans should not be cruel to animals, animals are still private property subject to human ownership. Therefore, multi-faceted questions of what constitutes “animal welfare” find a place in modern American debate. One such question becomes: should the producer or the consumer define welfare practice standards of animals raised for human consumption?7 This note provides an answer to this question by first analyzing the robust history of animal welfare in the United States, along with the domestic and international impact of the livestock industry on the U.S. economy in Parts I and II. Next, in Part III, the note connects that history to constitutional rights and how the Commerce Clause influences consumers’ relationships to food, even though there is no constitutional right to food, or right to know about food. To illustrate the concepts in the first three parts of the article, Part IV reviews the arguments concerning California’s Proposition 12 (“Prop 12”)–a recent ballot initiative limiting pork pen size currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Part IV parses whether such a ballot initiative adequately resolves the tension between producer-defined and consumer-defined standards. Using precedent, Part IV also examines the tendency of courts to favor producer interests over consumer interests. Part IV further examines when, if at all, morality expressed through animal welfare regulations become constitutional violations. The note concludes by summarizing potential solutions found in current case law and the livestock industry generally.