The U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned a California law banning the processing of non-ambulatory, or ‘downer’, livestock, including hogs. The high court decision was unanimous.

An official of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) responded to the ruling in a recent interview with AgriTalk Radio host Mike Adams. “It became very clear that the justices were concerned with (the California law) and saw it as over-reaching and in conflict with federal law,” said Tom Burkgren, DVM, AASV executive director. “We had several problems with this law.”

The California state law, which demanded non-ambulatory animals at packing plants be immediately euthanized, went too far into federal jurisdiction over protecting public health and animal welfare, the court found.

According to Burkgren, the law ignored the fact that there are differences among the species of animals it covered. In most cases, a non-ambulatory hog which is given time to rest will recover and not pose a food safety danger after processing. “We feel the USDA inspectors are doing a good job protecting animal health as well as human health,” Burkgren added.

Burkgren said that anti-agriculture activists posed the non-ambulatory animal issue as a scare tactic to convince the public that the meat is unsafe. “That’s just a lie,” Burkgren said. “There’s no difference in this meat from the meat of animals that walk right in.”

The California Legislature approved the law in 2008 after a grotesque video filmed and released by the Humane Society of the United States, showing non-ambulatory, or “downed,” cows at a California beef packing plant being dragged and inhumanely prodded to enter the processing line.

The high court was asked by the National Meat Association to find that the Federal Meat Inspection Act pre-empts the state statute. A federal district court judge blocked the California law, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco in 2010 overturned the lower court ruling.

The National Pork Producers Council, (NPPC) along with the AASV and the National Farmers Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that the California law would create an animal health risk and criminalize the work of federal slaughterhouse inspectors.

To read the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, click here.

Source: NPPC, AgriTalk Radio