January 23, 2012
The HSUS Expresses Disappointment in Supreme Court Ruling Nullifying Much of California Law to Bar the Abuse of Downed Animals
Group Urges Congress and USDA to Adopt More Stringent Rules Protecting Animals and Food Safety
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down most provisions of California’s downed animal law, effectively stripping the states of any authority to protect our food supply and the welfare of animals from the slaughterhouse industry and the dealers and producers who work with them. The challenge to California’s law was driven by the pork industry, whose leaders argued for and won the right to process and sell meat from pigs too sick or injured to even stand up and walk to slaughter. California had tried to put an end to the practice, but the pork industry, joined by the Obama administration in this case, fought the state’s efforts to protect animals and consumers at every turn.
Some parts of the state law were upheld, and it is still illegal to buy or sell downed animals outside the slaughterhouse, or to transport a downed animal to a slaughterhouse. In addition, the Court made clear that state cruelty laws can still apply to federal slaughterhouses, as long as they don’t differ from federal regulations. Further, the Court said that this ruling is not in conflict with appellate court rulings upholding state bans against the slaughter of horses for human consumption. But the bulk of the ruling is adverse, and has enormous implications for food safety and animal welfare.
“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,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “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.”
“Since the meat industry and the Obama administration argued that states are powerless to prevent disabled and abused animals from ending up in the food supply, they must now do more at the federal level to crack down on abuses of downed animals and take away the incentive for producers to torment animals unable to stand or walk to get them into the kill box,” added Mr. Pacelle.
The Obama administration has stalled on HSUS’ 2009 petition to eliminate the slaughter of downer calves – a problem that came to light after an HSUS investigation of a Vermont slaughter plant. In addition, the USDA has taken no substantive action on a 2010 petition from Farm Sanctuary that applies to down pigs and other livestock.
Media Contact: Anna West; 301-258-1518; firstname.lastname@example.org