Officials from several animal rights groups have announced that they will challenge a meat industry lawsuit currently underway that is attempting to block a California state law to ban non-ambulatory livestock from being processed at federally inspected meat plants. The ban would include all livestock species.

Back in December, the National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute jointly filed the suit challenging the proposed slaughter ban.

"Animals who are too sick to stand should never be allowed to enter the human food supply," says Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary. His group is leading the challenge against the NMA/AMI lawsuit. The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Farming Association and the Animal Legal Defense Fund also are signed on to the effort. "The lack of concern for public health and the complete disregard for these suffering animals demonstrates pure greed on the part of the meat-packing industry. California's downed animal law is appropriate and sensible, and it should be upheld by the court."

However, the issue is not that clear cut. For example, some hogs can become stressed during transport to the point that they become exhausted and have a hard time moving off the truck. If allowed to rest for 20 to 30 minutes, those animals recover and can proceed through the processing system as normal. Under the current proposal, those animals would be rejected.

The California downer ban was set to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year. A preliminary hearing on whether it can be enforced while the lawsuit is pending is scheduled for Feb. 11, at U.S. District Court in Fresno, Calif.