On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case considering whether California can address animal cruelty by requiring that pork sold in the state come from breeders that house pigs with room to move around, The New York Times reports. The outcome of the case could largely impact how pork is produced in all 50 states.
The court agreed that, within California's borders, the treatment of pigs could be regulated; the problem, however, is whether California can regulate what other states do. California has fewer than one percent of the breeding pigs in the country and imports over 99 percent of its pork meat, NPR reports. The state's residents also consume 13 percent of the pork produced in other states.
The case appeared to divide the judges, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch leaning toward upholding the state law, and Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh opposed to it, Vox reports. The three liberal justices — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson — seemed to side with California at first, but eventually tried to look for ways to narrowly decide the case, meaning the ruling would have "limited application" except to the parties in the lawsuit, per The New Yorker.
The case is complicated and a decision in favor of California may open the door for states to write laws regulating other states. "We live in a divided country," Justice Kagan said, "and the Balkanization that the framers were concerned about is surely present today."