National Meat Association v. Harris
Public Justice joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund in efforts to preserve a California law designed to prevent the abuse of pigs and other livestock who become non-ambulatory on the way to the slaughterhouse. The law was passed in 2008 in response to the Hallmark slaughter plant investigation in Chino, Calif., which exposed horrific abuse of downed dairy cows. The law is also designed to protect the food supply from downed livestock, which are far more likely to carry food borne illness.
The Ninth Circuit upheld the law in 2011, holding that California has the authority to ban the slaughter of certain animals where it is contrary to the state’s interest in ensuring the humane treatment of animals and the protecting the food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has joined the meat industry in seeking to overturn California’s ban on putting downers in the food supply, even though USDA itself prohibits the processing of downed cattle at slaughter plants. The federal ban on downers applies to cattle, but not to downed pigs or other livestock. However, USDA refuses to buy meat from any type of downed animal for its own national school lunch program because the risk of food borne illness is so much greater.
The brief was drafted by J. Scott Ballenger of Washington, D.C., with input from Public Justice’s Leslie Brueckner.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in November 2011. In January 2012, the Court ruled against the California law that the Ninth Circuit had upheld and Public Justice was hoping to preserve.
- Leslie Bailey