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The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously overturned the state law that mandates “humane treatment” of downed livestock headed for the slaughterhouse.
The center of the issue was whether federal regulations regarding inspection of domesticated animals that are about to be killed, processed and sold in the market for human consumption preempted or nullified the California Penal Code 599f.
A number of justices had earlier observed the good intentions behind the action of the state, but all of them agreed that the state went too far into an arena which is traditionally the domain of the federal government.
The Supreme Court decision was written by Justice Elena Kagan. In that ruling, Justice Kagan wrote, “The Federal Meat Inspection Act regulates slaughterhouses’ handling and treatment of non-ambulatory pigs from the moment of their delivery through the end of the meat production process. California’s (law) endeavors to regulate the same thing, at the same time, in the same place — except by imposing different requirements. The FMIA expressly preempts such a state law.”
The state law in question became effective in 2009. This was after a shocking undercover video was released by the Humane Society. San Bernardino County slaughterhouse workers were shown on the video dragging, prodding and even bulldozing weak and “non-ambulatory” cows into the slaughter pens. Water from hoses was also used on several cattle that were lying on their sides so as to force them to get up on their feet.
Meat processors are required by Penal Code 599f to remove at once any downed animal and to euthanize them in a “humane” manner. The sale, purchase or shipment of such animals is criminally prohibited.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that interstate commerce is within the jurisdiction of the federal government.