California’s Meat Law to be Tested by Case at the Supreme Court
Almost four years after the maltreatment of cows at an Inland slaughterhouse sparked the largest recall of beef in history, the U.S. Supreme Court is now preparing to rule on the contentious California law that arose from the debacle.
The case, which is set for arguments on November 9, will pit the meat industry against animal protection organizations, and the state of California against the federal government.
The issue at bar is whether California has the power to prohibit the slaughter of animals that are too sick or too hurt to stand.
That is just what the Legislature set out to do in June of 2008, when it passed a legislative measure that bars the state’s slaughterhouses and meatpacker from butchering, buying, selling or even holding “downer” or non-ambulatory animals.
The legislative measure was prompted by the revelation that downer cows at Chino’s Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. had been shocked, beaten, dragged by chains and rammed with forklift in an attempt to get them to stand and be slaughtered.
Downer cows are barred from the food supply since they pose a risk to the health of the consumers.
However, in cases when a cow went down after it has gone through the initial inspection at a meat plant, they could still be slaughtered if they passed a second inspection conducted by federal veterinary inspectors.
A Humane Society of the United States undercover investigator, who had taken a job at the meat plant, captured the abuse on video. His footage shows downers being slaughtered without going through a second inspection.
This resulted in the crafting of new rules by the Obama administration that bans downer cows from being slaughtered under any circumstance. The law in California goes a step further by extending the slaughter prohibition to animals belonging to any species.