Oral argument: Nov. 9, 2011
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Mar. 31, 2010)
In response to the largest beef recall in United States history, California amended its Penal Code to ban the slaughtering of nonambulatory animals and require that slaughterhouses euthanize any such animals on their premises. The National Meat Association filed suit arguing that the Federal Meat Inspection Act expressly preempts California’s ban on the slaughter of nonambulatory animals, and that the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s historical context demonstrates Congress’s intent to exercise exclusive authority over the meatpacking industry. Attorney General of California Kamala Harris and animal protection organizations (including the Humane Society of the United States) propose a narrow understanding of slaughterhouse “operations” and argue that the California ban does not undermine the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s purpose. The outcome of this case will affect the slaughterhouses’ ability to examine animals for disease before euthanizing them and states’ ability to regulate areas where general federal law already exists.