Supreme Court to Rule on Treatment of Downed Animals

Adonia David 

 The horrors of slaughterhouses were brought home to many Americans in 2007 when undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States at a California slaughterhouse showed workers abusing cows who were unable to walk (“downers”) by dragging them with forklifts, using water hoses on them, and shocking them with electric prods.  Footage of the video can be seen here.   The slaughterhouse was the second largest supplier of meat to the National School Lunch program, and the Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of meat following the release of the video.  California responded to this abuse by strengthening a state law relating to downed animals so that any such downed animal in a slaughterhouse is to be humanely euthanized immediately, and their meat shall not be sold for human consumption.

 The meat industry has claimed that California’s law conflicts with a federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which requires downed animals to be examined.  Under the federal regulations, if an animal shows signs of specified illnesses during the examination, its meat to be destroyed,  but otherwise it may be butchered for human consumption.  Asserting that the California law is preempted by federal law and that it violates the dormant commerce clause, the National Meat Association brought suit in National Meat Association v. Brown.  A district court judge granted an injunction which was overturned by the Ninth Circuit.  The Supreme Court granted certiaori and on November 9, 2011 heard arguments on the case.  The decision is expected in a few months, but unfortunately the Court seemed to be leaning towards the meat industry during the arguments. Continue reading