In July 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union, The Good Food Institute, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and ACLU of Arkansas filed a lawsuit challenging an Arkansas law that would impose fines of up to $1,000 for every plant-based and cell-based meat product, such as “veggie burgers” and “tofu dogs,” marketed or packaged with a “meat” label. The labels would be subject to fines within state borders even if followed by modifiers such as “vegan,” “veggie,” or “plant-based.” Under the law, which is set to go in effect this week, products labeled as “cauliflower rice” (but not “riced cauliflower”) and “almond milk” would also be considered mislabeled and subject to fines for not containing any actual rice or dairy.
Tofurky vs. Soman
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tofurky in federal court. It argues the Arkansas law violates the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause by improperly censoring truthful speech and creating consumer confusion in order to shore up the state’s meat and rice industries. The lawsuit adds that there is no evidence that the current labels mislead consumers, pointing out that Tofurky’s products all clearly indicate the products are plant-based, meatless, vegetarian, or vegan. The law’s proponents have admitted that the law’s purpose is to protect the agricultural producers in the state.
The Arkansas law is substantially similar to meat-labeling censorship laws recently passed in Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and other states. A number of those laws face similar legal challenges, including by the ACLU, Good Food Institute, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The Missouri law, for instance, was initially proposed by the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. When discussing the perceived need for the Missouri law, state representative Jeff Knight publicly admitted that: “We’re just trying to protect our product.” Animal agriculture industry representatives previously warned producers that competition from plant-based and cell-based options is one of the “major challenges” the animal meat industry faces in 2018.