Kitty Block, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, a prominent advocate of the legislation, said in an interview that the various lawsuits opposing Proposition 12 were a “frivolous tactic to try to continue to delay things.”
She added that the law was not an anomaly, and that there were ripple effects across the nation. Similar measures, though not as expansive, she conceded, have passed in a few other states, such as Colorado and Nevada.
The latest suit from California industry groups was a “Hail Mary pass,” she said, though one that — if successful — would “subvert the will of the California voters.” On the still-forthcoming regulations, Ms. Block said that suppliers had already had three years to meet the law’s minimum enclosure standards — at least 24 square feet of space for breeding pigs and 144 square inches for hens — that allow more freedom of movement.
“This is just some additional space for these animals to not be essentially immobilized their entire lives,” Ms. Block said, adding that the chicken and veal industries were already converting their farms to be in compliance.
Animal rights advocates and the pork industry are at odds on what will happen after Jan. 1. Some suppliers and businesses believe there could be a cascade of negative consequences, a shortage of pork, a sharp increase in wholesale costs resulting in much higher prices for California residents.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be California consumers who pay the price,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association. “Either they’re not going to be able to get the product, or they’re going to be paying a lot more for it.”
Ms. Block disagrees, mentioning that major companies including Perdue Farms have indicated they will be “Prop 12 ready.”
“There is not going to be this Armageddon of delay,” she said.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that under the new law, annual food costs could rise about $50 for each resident, with only 10 percent of the increase attributed to pork or veal expenses.