The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Supreme Court rules against California slaughterhouse law

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled unanimously against a California law that required slaughterhouses to deal with nonambulatory pigs in ways that are different from the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

In the case of National Meat Association v. Harris, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the preemption clause in the federal act "prevents a state from imposing any additional or different — even if non-conflicting — requirements that fall within the scope of the act and concern a slaughterhouse's facilities or operations."

Kagan, writing for the unanimous court, added that "at every turn" the California law "imposes additional or different requirements on swing slaughterhouses."

National Meat Association CEO Barry Carpenter said in a news release, "We couldn't be more pleased that the Supreme Court not only found in favor of our very clear and reasonable arguments, but that they did so unanimously."

The National Farmers Union, which joined in the suit, noted that the decision overturned an earlier ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which prevented such animals from being slaughtered.

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court used sound science to determine that animals that are fatigued from being transported are simply tired, not sick, as the state of California attempted to allege," said NFU President Roger Johnson.

"These animals represent absolutely no health risk for consumers, so they should not be removed from the supply chain," said Johnson. "Removing them only decreases the number of animals available for consumption and drives up food costs, while increasing bureaucratic red tape. The Supreme Court's ruling is supported by science, and benefits consumers, slaughterhouses, and America's family farmers and ranchers."