Justices likely to overturn CALIFORNIA law against slaughtering ‘downer’ animals
Posted: November 11th, 2011 - 10:10am
Source: New York Times
WASHINGTON -- A California law that seeks to keep animals that are unable to walk out of the food supply seemed unlikely to survive scrutiny from the Supreme Court, judging from the justices’ questions during arguments on Wednesday.
There seemed to be broad agreement among the justices that the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which regulates slaughterhouses, barred most or all of the California law, which requires the immediate euthanasia of “downer” animals and bars their slaughter or sale.
The state law was enacted in 2009 in response to videos showing the inhumane treatment of cows that could not walk.
The federal law allows federal meat inspectors to decide what is to be done with such animals, and it says that states may not impose additional or different requirements.
Federal inspectors sometimes determine that the animals may be revived and slaughtered, and they sometimes order animals to be kept alive long enough to inspect them for contagious diseases.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled last year that there is no conflict between the California law and the federal one because the state had merely disqualified certain kinds of animals from being used for food. That is different, the appeals court said, from issuing additional or different regulations concerning the operations of slaughterhouses.
“States aren’t limited to excluding animals from slaughter on a species-wide basis,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court.
Similarly, he wrote, the California law “withdraws from slaughter animals that are unable to walk to their death.”
At Wednesday’s argument, Steven J. Wells, a lawyer for the National Meat Association, which is challenging the law, said that so fine a distinction was unworkable.