The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, announced last week in National Meat Association vs Harris, offered yet another opportunity for activists to scare and confuse consumers with propaganda.
The High Court struck down California Penal Code 599f because, Justice Elena Kagan said, The Federal Meat Inspection Act already covers the issues that the state was attempting to regulate.
"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," wrote Kagan. "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."
National Meat Association CEO Barry Carpenter said, “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.”
Congress added a preemption clause to the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1967. And Kagan wrote, “The clause prevents a State from imposing any additional or different – even if non-conflicting – requirements that fall within the scope of the Act and concern a slaughterhouse’s facilities or operations. And at every turn §599f imposes additional or different requirements on swine slaughterhouses: It compels them to deal with non-ambulatory pigs on their premises in ways that the federal Act and regulations do not.”
California’s law, as many have acknowledged, was written with good intentions. The state was attempting to ensure that non-ambulatory livestock are treated humanely. That the Court ruled against the California law was not an indication that the justices are giving a green light to animal abuse. But you wouldn’t know that from the criticism aimed at the justices after yesterday’s decision was announced.
"This is a deeply troubling decision, preventing a wide range of actions by the states to protect animals and consumers from reckless practices by the meat industry, including the mishandling and slaughter of animals too sick or injured to walk," Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States was quoted as saying on CNN’s website. "The fact is, Congress and the USDA have been in the grip of the agribusiness lobby for decades, and that's why our federal animal handling and food safety laws are so anemic. California tried to protect its citizens and the animals at slaughterhouses from acute and extreme abuses, but its effort was cannibalized by the federal government."