California law on downer livestock overturned

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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OAKLAND, Calif. – In a long-awaited decision that favored the National Meat Association, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that in the case of NMA vs. Harris, the Federal Meat Inspection Act preempts a California state law regulating the handling of nonambulatory livestock at slaughtering facilities beyond the scope of FMIA. The California law not only prevents the purchase, selling or receiving of nonambulatory livestock by slaughtering facilities, but also requires the facilities to immediately euthanize “downer” animals and forbids the selling of its meat. National Meat Association officials were pleased with the Jan. 23 decision.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that the Supreme Court not only found in favor of our very clear and reasonable arguments, but that they did so unanimously,” said NMA CEO Barry Carpenter. “We are also very grateful to attorney Steven Wells, who represented NMA before the Court, and to Assistant Solicitor General Benjamin Horwich, who represented USDA.”

Congress added a preemption clause to the FMIA in 1967, which the Supreme Court, in its written opinion pointed out prevents states from adding or changing requirements that are part of the FMIA.

In the opinion, Justice Elena Kagan also wrote: “At every turn §599f imposes additional or different requirements on swine slaughterhouses. It compels them to deal with nonambulatory pigs on their premises in ways that the federal act and regulations do not.”

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