Supreme Court overturns California downer animal law
January 26, 2012
In a long-awaited decision that favored the National Meat Association (NMA), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, Jan. 23, that in the case of NMA vs. Harris, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) preempts a 2008 California state law regulating the handling of nonambulatory livestock at slaughtering facilities beyond the scope of the FMIA.
The California law not only prevents the purchase, selling or receiving of nonambulatory livestock by slaughtering facilities, but also requires the facilities to immediately euthanize “downer” animals and forbids the selling of its meat. NMA officials were pleased with the decision.
“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,” said NMA CEO Barry Carpenter in a news release.
A preemption clause was added to the FMIA by Congress in 1967. As the Court pointed out in its opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan: “The clause 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. And at every turn (the California law) imposes additional or different requirements on swine slaughterhouses: It compels them to deal with nonambulatory pigs on their premises in ways that the federal Act and regulations do not.”