California wins pig slaughter law appeal

April 1, 2010 at 9:13 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, April 1 (UPI) -- California has won a federal appellate court's blessing for a state law banning pork products made from pigs slaughtered when they are too weak to walk.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 3-0 Wednesday to overturn a ruling by a federal district court judge in Fresno that the state's 2008 law can't be tougher than federal law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

The case involves a lawsuit brought by the National Meat Association, which represents meat packers and processors who contend federal regulations prohibit the sale of meat from so-called downer cattle -- those unable to stand on their own -- but allow the sale of meat from pigs and other animals unless they show signs of certain diseases. Those federal rules also prohibit states from imposing additional requirements on a slaughterhouse's facilities and operations, they contend.

But the federal appellate panel decided in California's favor.

"Federal law regulates the meat inspection process; states are free to decide which animals may be turned into meat," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said.

The issue may not be settled yet. The industry association could ask the full appeals court to take a look at the latest ruling. Association Chief Executive Barry Carpenter says the state law fails to differentiate between animals too sick to move and those simply resting.

"This California law fails to distinguish between livestock at rest and livestock that have no independent mobility, and that is a critical and potentially illegal failing," he said.

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