Downer Case Headed to the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by the meat industry challenging California’s downed animal law (California Penal Code § 599f). The law was enacted in the aftermath of documented egregious cruelty to non-ambulatory dairy cows at the Westland Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino that triggered the largest beef recall in U.S. history. Slaughterhouses are prohibited from slaughtering non-ambulatory animals for human consumption and required to immediately euthanize downed animals under the law. After passage, the National Meat Association (NMA) went to court and gained an injunction against enforcement, but last year a federal appeals court vacated the injunction, prompting NMA to seek a hearing before the Supreme Court. The issue at hand is whether the Federal Meat Inspection Act expressly prohibits California's downed animal law - specifically in reference to pigs, as the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle is already prohibited by federal law.