Supreme Court of U.S. Hears Meat Industry Challenge to California Law Banning "Downed" Animals From Meat SupplyNovember 9th, 2011
Animal Legal Defense Fund Intervenes in Case, Supporting State Anti-Cruelty Law Against Corporate Profit-Seekers
For immediate release
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
San Francisco—Today, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments in National Meat Association v. Harris, the meat industry’s challenge of a 2008 California law that requires slaughterhouses to immediately euthanize “downer” animals who are too sick to stand up and walk to their own deaths. The Sonoma County, California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with the Humane Society of the U.S., Farm Sanctuary, and Humane Farming Association, intervened in the case to defend California's law, which stops factory farmers from beating, shocking, and dragging downed pigs to slaughter. The case—a rare instance of the Supreme Court deciding on a case relating specifically to legal protection for animals—will determine whether California voters or out-of-state corporations have the right to decide how farmed animals in California are treated.
The National Meat Association (NMA) and other trade groups want California’s law declared unconstitutional because of the profits they will lose if they cannot slaughter and sell even downed animals. They claim that comparatively weak federal regulations—rather than California law—should control the issue. The NMA previously succeeded at the district court level, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, calling the NMA’s arguments "hogwash."
California’s downed animal law was prompted by revelations that cows at Chino, California's Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. had been beaten, shocked, dragged by chains, rammed with a forklift, and sprayed with high-pressure hoses by workers attempting to get them to stand for slaughter. The California prosecutor that charged workers at the plant supports the California law, claiming that a decision in favor of the industry would diminish state and local authorities' ability to bring such cases in the future.
"The meat industry wants federal rather than state law to control the issue of downed animals in the food supply because it is easier for them to influence one group of federal regulators than fifty state legislatures, including California," says the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s litigation director Carter Dillard, who formerly represented the United States as a lawyer with the Department of Justice. "If Californians want animals in the state treated better, Washington and corporate farmers should not be telling them otherwise."