Commercial speech is not easily restricted. Earlier this summer, some state restrictions on speech by companies in the alcohol business were struck down by a federal court.
Missouri’s first in the country state law prevents vegan and plant-based businesses from using words like “meat” and “beef” and “chicken” and “sausage” on their labels and it goes too far, according to opponents.
The manufacturer of the plant-based Tofurky brand along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Good Food Institute are suing Missouri in federal court. The plaintiffs say the new Missouri statute violates their commercial speech rights, which are protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The Missouri General Assembly imposed the restrictions earlier this year at the behest of Missouri cattlemen, who are concerned about “cultured” products that investors hope to sell as “meat.”
Missouri cattlemen say the new state law helps consumers who have the right to know whether they are buying meat grown on the hoof or a lab-grown product derived from animal cells. The state legislators were willing to move faster on the issue than federal regulatory agencies. The Food and Drug Administration is leading the national discussion.
The plaintiffs represent a mixed bag of interests. GFI favors calling these lab-grown products “clean meat” and is prominent in the national debate. ALDF is the foremost court advocate for animal activists, many of whom see lab-cultured products as the route for ending animal agriculture.
The plaintiffs will likely argue the Missouri law goes too far by “putting its thumb on the scale” in prohibiting the plant-based and cultured-product manufacturers from using “truthful speech.”
The Missouri law went into effect on Aug. 28. The lawsuit was filed a day earlier. The plaintiffs are seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the restrictions from going into effect until the federal court has heard the arguments.
On the federal level, FDA is not only looking at the meat issue, but also milk. Various kinds of milk that does not come from cows or other animals — almond and soy for example — carry “milk” labels and usually found on the adjacent shelve with the real thing.
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