Supreme Court Overturns Downer Cow Law


WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that California can’t enforce a state law that required slaughterhouse operators to immediately euthanize animals that were unable to stand or walk.

The state law also barred the butchering and sale of meat from animals that can’t walk.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, said the California law was preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which imposes different requirements on slaughterhouses.

The National Meat Association, a trade group representing meat packers and processors, challenged the California law before it went into effect, arguing that it conflicted with federal slaughterhouse requirements. It sought to block enforcement of the law as applied to federally inspected swine slaughterhouses.

The California law could have had its most significant impact in the pork industry. That’s because under federal law, non-walking pigs can be slaughtered and sold for human consumption if they pass federal inspection.

California lawmakers passed the state law in 2008 to prevent the inhumane treatment of downed animals. The legislation was introduced after the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video that depicted non-walking cows being kicked, electrocuted and rammed with forklifts at a California slaughterhouse.

The San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2010, ruling that despite federal regulations, California had the right to command that certain types or classes of animals — in this case those that couldn’t stand or walk — not be slaughtered at all.

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling overturned that appeals court decision.


Source:  Dow Jones

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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