The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to review the California law that bans all non-ambulatory livestock from being slaughtered in the state if the animals are being processed for food.
The law was passed in the aftermath of the scandal at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Cal., in which the company illegally slaughtered non-ambulatory cattle that were not cleared for slaughter by veterinarians and sold the beef into commerce, including the school lunch program (Feedstuffs, Feb. 4 and 25, 2008).
Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture banned the slaughter of all non-ambulatory cattle for processing for the food supply to make sure diseased and distressed cattle are not processed for food.
Shortly thereafter, the California General Assembly adopted a food safety law that banned slaughter of all non-ambulatory livestock - cattle, hogs, goats and sheep - for processing for food regardless as to why an animal may be down.
The National Meat Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California charging that the law violated the Federal Meat Inspection Act in that it set forth requirements that are "in addition to and/or different from" the federal law that banned only non-ambulatory cattle. NMA said hogs and other animals can be down because they are fatigued or injured.
The district court ruled for NMA (Feedstuffs, March 16, 2009), but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court (Feedstuffs, April 5, 2010), after which NMA took the matter to the Supreme Court (Feedstuffs, May 10, 2010).
The circuit court stayed the law pending appeal. The high court has scheduled the appeal for its 2011-12 term, which begins Oct. 4. NMA said the court took the appeal after being advised by the U.S. Solicitor General that the circuit's decision was in error.