US Supreme Court Guts CA Law to Help Injured and Sick Pigs

Written by Cheryl Leahy

US Supreme Court Guts CA Law to Help Injured and Sick PigsLast November, we told you about a case being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court about whether or not California could enforce a state-level law to protect slaughter-bound pigs who were too sick or injured to walk. This law requires the humane euthanasia of “nonambulatory” or “downed” pigs, preventing them from being poked, prodded, or otherwise forced through the slaughter line. While federal law prevents the slaughter of “downed” cows, California is the only state to extend these protections to pigs.

In a disappointing decision earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned California’s state law — ruling against the protection of injured and sick pigs and in favor of agribusiness. This decision essentially strips California of the authority to create its own states laws protecting slaughter-bound animals. The unanimous opinion makes it clear that the slaughterhouse is solely within the realm of the federal government when it comes to how to treat these suffering pigs, no matter how inadequate — or in this case nonexistent — the federal law’s protections are.

In her opinion for the Court, Justice Kagan says:

“[A]t every turn [California’s law] imposes additional or different requirements on swine slaughterhouses…[California’s law] prohibits the slaughterhouse from ‘hold[ing]’ such an animal ‘without taking immediate action to humanely euthanize’ it. By contrast, under the [federal law] a slaughterhouse may hold (without euthanizing) any nonambulatory pig that has not been condemned…And the slaughterhouse may process or butcher such an animal’s meat for human consumption…[The federal law] therefore precludes California’s effort … to impose new rules, beyond any the [federal government] has chosen to adopt, on what a slaughterhouse must do with a pig that becomes nonambulatory during the production process.”

Exactly the problem as far as we’re concerned — the federal government turns its back on these pigs and that’s the very reason used to prevent anyone else from stepping in to help them. Shameful.

Take Action: Now that the Supreme Court has quashed this modicum of protection pigs were afforded by the state of California, it’s up to us to encourage the federal government to pass the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (H.R. 3704), which would prohibit all downed livestock animals (not just adult cattle) from being sent through the slaughter process, and require them to be humanely euthanized instead. Call your federal representatives and urge them to support this bill.

And while you’re at it, ask them to also pass the first federal law ever to help egg-laying hens.