Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Supreme Court schedules hearing on Calif. 'downer' law

Arguments surrounding the California law that bans all non-ambulatory livestock from being slaughtered in the state for processing into meat will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
The court has scheduled a hearing on the matter Nov. 9.

The law was adopted in the aftermath of the scandal at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Cal., in which workers were caught on secretly taped video dragging and prodding non-ambulatory cattle to get them up to be slaughtered for processing into meat that was introduced into commerce, including the National School Lunch Program (Feedstuffs, Feb. 4, 2008).

Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture banned the slaughter of all non-ambulatory cattle for meat, and shortly thereafter, the California General Assembly passed a law banning the slaughter of all non-ambulatory livestock in the state -- cattle, hogs, goats and sheep -- for the food supply regardless of the reason why an animal might be "down."

The National Meat Assn. (NMA) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California charging that the California law violated the Federal Meat Inspection Act in that it set forth requirements that are "in addition to and/or different from" the federal law that does not prohibit the slaughter of non-ambulatory hogs. NMA said the hogs might be down due to fatigue or injury and with care or rest will walk to a kill box.
The court ruled for NMA (Feedstuffs, March 16, 2009), but on appeal, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's ruling (Feedstuffs, April 5, 2010). NMA then took the issue to the Supreme Court (Feedstuffs, May, 10, 2010).

The circuit court stayed its ruling pending the appeal.

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