Supreme Court decision helps fuel activist propaganda machine

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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."

Whoa! There’s a statement aimed at confusing consumers. In fact, what the Supreme Court and many others have been saying is that the Federal Meat Inspection Act already protects animals from abuse. There’s no need for further laws that may differ from state to state or conflict with the national law.

But that logic didn’t seem to be resonating with consumers, at least not those who commented on CNN’s website. The story had generated nearly 1,000 comments by early evening yesterday, the majority of which expressed disagreement with the court’s decision.

Here’s a sample of the confusion found in the comments on CNN’s website:

Cassieann wrote: “I don't even want to read this opinion.  This was an attempt to protect those animals on the way to slaughter.  Though we may be not be vegetarians, we can at least protect those animals we eat from cruelty during their lifetime.  The court throws it out. Shame on them.”

Kingfisher39 wrote: “The beef industry in California is responsible for as much greenhouse gas production as all the cars being driven in California.  Beef is bad for humans, it gives us heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  Beef uses hundreds of times more water and land than other types of meat (such as poultry and pigs and sheep).”

Itoldyouso10 wrote:First, I am appalled by this decision and have trouble believing what I am reading.  I am not a vegetarian myself, but I accept that when I eat meat, I have to deal with these realities and acknowledge the truths about industrial farming when I do. I think if someone is going to eat meat it would be wise to do the same. I think vegetarianism is the right way to go, but many of us have difficulties changing our diets so much. So, I don't think its right to eat meat, but I accept and acknowledge where my food comes from.”

The Supreme Court didn’t condone animal abuse in their decision, though you wouldn’t know it from the comments posted on CNN. The court just ruled on the law, which says states can’t add their own versions to the Federal Meat Inspection Act. And apparently there wasn’t any disagreement among the justices as all nine of them voted the same way.

Unfortunately, animal activists used a no-brainer decision by the court to further scare and confuse your consumers.

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Texas  |  January, 24, 2012 at 05:15 PM

The fact of the matter is that the animal rights movement is much better at getting their propaganda machine ginning comments on websites and blogs than the agriculture community. We must get more proactive to get our message out. A great example of success was the mobilization against yellow tail wine last year because of their support of HSUS. We cannot be complacent we must get our message out as well. The comments of "I am not a vegitarian, but..." can be decoded as, I am a member of the animal rights movement and want to be seen as a regular joe in getting my message out.

Suzanne Moore    
Warsaw, IN  |  January, 27, 2012 at 06:42 PM

You are presuming WAY too much. I'm not a vegetarian either, but I'm certainly against unnecessary, careless abuse of ANY animal. Having said that, allow me to say that I am NOT, never have been and never will be an "animal rights activist." I may be an advocate for humane treatment, but that's entirely different. I think you would get more support from the majority of animal welfare advocates who are NOT animal rights activists if you wouldn't assume that everyone who wants animals to be treated humanely is a wacko-urban-knownothing-animal rights fanatic out to destroy all agriculture.

Jim Bird    
Birmingham, Mich  |  January, 24, 2012 at 08:00 PM

If Congress would accept responsibility for protecting consumers, and pass a tougher food and drug law there would not be a problem. Will Congress have the courage to challenge the agribusiness pressure groups?

Ohio  |  January, 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Jim - Congress did pass new FDA food safety laws last year greatly expanding their powers. This did not effect USDA (FSIS) inspection which controls meat packing plants and livestock slaughter because that inspection is so far superior to even the new FDA laws that they did not want to water it down. Under FSIS every animal is inspected. The court decision has nothing to do with food safety - it has to do with the defination of non ambulatory. The slaughter of non ambulatory animals in not allowed under either system. It simply says California can not redefine it. And yes we need to call HSUS on it.

January, 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM

The question is this: Will the states actually enforce the federal laws in place? As we saw yesterday in the news, that a blood-red stream was found behind a meat processing plant in Texas, these slaughtering moguls do not care about the environment, correct dumping procedure, and they surely care less about the lives they are "processing." Regardless of the propaganda claims by this article, the facts remain that slaughterhouse treat animals just horribly, and that downed animals suffer in ways you cannot imagine with the laws in place now.

kansas  |  February, 01, 2012 at 08:50 AM

So, what are we in the Ag business community going to do about it? This is yet another demonstration, like the one from Ed Idiots who claimed Ag degress were useless, that consumers are completely ignorant of all things Ag in the modern world. We, unlike the radical eco/animal rights loons, have completely FAILED to communicate with and educate the general population. We spend tons of ink in the Ag Press telling Each Other what a great business we have - but almost Nothing in media for the 99.5% of the Public that has never seen a Drovers magazine. We either need to get busy with our own PR programs, or give up and stop whining.

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