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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision, announced yesterday in National Meat Association vs Harris, saw activists immediately start their propaganda machines.

The High Court struck down California Penal Code 599f with Justice Elena Kagan saying, The Federal Meat Inspection Act already covers the issues that the state was attempting to regulate.

“The Federal Meat Inspection Act regulates slaughterhouses’ handling and treatment of non-ambulatory pigs from the moment of their delivery through the end of the meat production process,” wrote Kagan. “California’s (law) endeavors to regulate the same thing, at the same time, in the same place — except by imposing different requirements. The FMIA expressly preempts such a state law.”

National Meat Association CEO Barry Carpenter said, “We couldn’t be more pleased that the Supreme Court not only found in favor of our very clear and reasonable arguments, but that they did so unanimously.”

Congress added a preemption clause to the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1967. And Kagan wrote, “The clause prevents a State from imposing any additional or different – even if non-conflicting – requirements that fall within the scope of the Act and concern a slaughterhouse’s facilities or operations. And at every turn §599f imposes additional or different requirements on swine slaughterhouses: It compels them to deal with non-ambulatory pigs on their premises in ways that the federal Act and regulations do not.”

The California law  was written with good intentions. The state was attempting to ensure that non-ambulatory livestock are treated humanely. That the Court ruled against the California law was not an indication that the justices are giving a green light to animal abuse. But you wouldn’t know that from the criticism aimed at the justices after yesterday’s decision was announced.

“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,” Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States was quoted as saying on CNN’s website. “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.”

Whoa! There’s a statement aimed at confusing consumers. In fact, what the Supreme Court and many others have been saying is that the Federal Meat Inspection Act already protects animals from abuse. There’s no need for further laws that may differ from state to state or conflict with the national law.

But that logic didn’t seem to be resonating with consumers, at least not those who commented on CNN’s website. The story had generated nearly 1,000 comments by early evening yesterday, the majority of which expressed disagreement with the court’s decision.

One CNN viewer noted “The beef industry in California is responsible for as much greenhouse gas production as all the cars being driven in California. Beef is bad for humans, it gives us heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Beef uses hundreds of times more water and land than other types of meat (such as poultry and pigs and sheep).”

While the Supreme Court didn’t condone animal abuse in their decision, though you wouldn’t know it from the comments posted on CNN. The court just ruled on the law, which says states can’t add their own versions to the Federal Meat Inspection Act. And apparently there wasn’t any disagreement among the justices as all nine of them voted the same way.


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