Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pigs in the Supreme Court

The New York Times reports (here) on Monday's Supreme Court decision that unanimously struck down a California law that prevented the slaughter of non-ambulatory animals. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the opinion, which held that the Federal Meat Inspection Act (a result, in part, of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle back at the start of the twentieth century) preempted the state law. Kagan's opinion focused on pigs, with the justice calculating that between 100,000 and one million pigs annually become unable to walk after being delivered to slaughterhouses. Under the California law--one prompted by a Humane Society of the United States undercover investigation of animals being kicked, dragged, and prodded to slaughter--these "downer animals" would have to be immediately euthanized and not killed for consumption. The Supreme Court's decision puts paid to the idea, put forth by U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, in support of the California law, that "States are free to decide which animals may be turned into meat." The current system, in which federal meat inspectors decide what is done with "downers," remains in place. By the way, the USDA estimates that over 28 million hogs will be slaughtered in the first quarter of 2012 in the United States.

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