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California’s law, which bans the slaughter of animals that cannot walk, will be heard by the Supreme Court today. The measure was enacted in 2008 after a grisly undercover video showing lame cows being jabbed with forklifts and waterboarded at a San Bernardino County meat plant was made public.
The law prohibits the sale, receipt or slaughter of any downed animal, and requires meat plants to immediately euthanize them. It also bans dragging or pushing animals with heavy equipment, requiring meat plants to move the animals on a sled or sling. The measure has not taken effect because of an injunction filed in 2009 by the Oakland-based National Meat Association.
According to the meat packers, California does not have any right to insist on a humane treatment of farm, in this case pigs, because only the federal government has exclusive authority over slaughterhouses and responsible for animal protection under a 1958 law passed by Congress. The Obama administration is siding with the meat packers.
When asked for a comment, Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “This is a case of great consequence for states and their authority to take aggressive action to stop animal cruelty. Congress is in the grip of the agri-business lobby, and if we have to wait until Congress acts, we’ll be waiting for a very long time to bring relief to these animals and to secure the food supply for the health and well-being of consumers.”
The video was secretly taken by a member of the Humane Society at the Westland/Hallmark plant in Chino. It caused a national uproar and investigation, which led to the largest recall in U.S. history amounting to almost 143 million pounds of beef, and the convictions of two plant employees for animal cruelty.