On Nov. 9, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving a California law that bans non-ambulatory livestock, including hogs, from entering the food supply. The high court has been asked by the National Meat Association to rule that the Federal Meat Inspection Act pre-empts the state statute.
The California legislature approved the law in 2008 after a video was released by the Humane Society of the United States, showing non-ambulatory or “downed” cows at a California beef packing plant being dragged and prodded to enter the processing line. [As part of its efforts to address “mad cow” disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture already forbids the slaughter of “downed” cattle.] A federal district court judge blocked the law, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco last year overturned the lower court ruling.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in the case. NPPC has pointed out that, after transport from the farm to the packing plant, hogs can become non-ambulatory from fatigue. With rest, the overwhelming majority of them will walk, and processing them poses no food safety or public health risk.