National Meat Association v. Brown UpdatePosted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on September 1st, 2009
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently heard arguments in National Meat Association v. Brown, a case in which the meat industry is attempting to invalidate a California law designed to reduce animal suffering and protect public safety.
At issue is Section 599f of the California Penal Code, which, among other things, prohibits slaughterhouses from purchasing, receiving, selling, dragging, or pushing non-ambulatory animals, also known as “downers,” and requires immediate euthanasia of such animals. The industry sued California, arguing that Section 599f is preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act. A coalition of animal protection groups consisting of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Farm Sanctuary, and the Humane Farming Association (HFA), intervened in the case to ensure that the interests of animals and the public were represented.
Although all animals suffer immensely throughout the meat production process, animals who are too sick or injured to stand or walk suffer even more. They are pushed with forklifts, shocked with electric prods, jabbed with sticks, and sprayed with high-powered water hoses to force them to stand for inspection so that they can be slaughtered for meat.
In February, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled in favor of the industry, granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting California from enforcing the law to the extent it covered pigs in slaughterhouses. The State of California and the animal protection groups appealed the decision.
On August 11, the Ninth Circuit held oral argument in the case, hearing from the State of California, the National Meat Association, and the animal protection groups. ALDF, HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, and HFA were represented by Sarah Conant from HSUS, who did a terrific job of helping the court focus on the issues that matter. The panel, consisting of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, Judge Stephen Reinhardt, and Judge Barry Silverman, asked a variety of informed and probing questions with a level of engagement and inquisitiveness that demonstrated the judges’ interest in the case and their appreciation of its significance. At the end of the oral argument, the judges took the case under submission. It is impossible to know how long it will be before they release their decision, but we will be sure to let our supporters know as soon as we learn of the outcome.