Obama bans slaughtering downed cattle, but judge overturns California downer law
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2009:
WASHINGTON D.C.–U.S. President Barack Obama in his weekly
video and radio address to the nation on March 14, 2009 announced
that the U.S. would reinforce and make permanent a ban on killing
downed cattle at federally inspected meat plants.
“As part of our commitment to public health, our Agriculture
Department is closing a loophole in the system to ensure that
diseased cows don’t find their way into the food supply,” Obama said.
Newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the
ban “a step forward for both food safety and the standards for humane
treatment of animals.”
“Under the previous regulations,” said Farm Sanctuary
cofounder Gene Baur, “a case-by-case assessment was made of cattle
who went down at the slaughterhouse after passing the pre-slaughter
inspection. This encouraged slaughterhouse workers to try to get
cattle to stand and walk, pulling them by the ears and tails,
prodding them with electric shocks, even dragging them with chains
and pushing them with forklifts.”
“We believe this policy should apply to pigs and all other
species as well,” Baur added. Farm Sanctuary debuted in 1986 with a
“No Downers” campaign after Baur and others rescued a downed sheep
named Hilda from a stockyard near Philadelphia, and has pursued
anti-downer laws ever since.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on February 19, 2009
ruled in Fresno, California that downed pigs may still be
slaughtered for human consumption, under the 1907 Federal Meat
Inspection Act, despite a 2008 California law that was meant to keep
downed pigs and cattle out of the human food supply.
“The state legislation was approved last summer after the
largest beef recall in history,” wrote John Ellis of the Fresno Bee.
“That recall came after the Humane Society of the U.S. secretly
videotaped animal abuse at a Southern California slaughterhouse,
including a man dragging and shocking sick cows. But the National
Meat Association and the American Meat Institute challenged the
California law, saying federal law preempts state law. The legal
battle isn’t over,” Ellis continued. “O’Neill’s ruling is
preliminary. But if the state doesn’t appeal the ruling, the
National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute will ask
O’Neill to make it permanent.”
California attorney general Jerry Brown on March 5, 2009
appealed O’Neill’s verdict to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in
Judge O’Neill a week before issuing his preliminary ruling
allowed the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Farming
Association, Farm Sanctuary, and the Humane Society of the U.S. to
petition the court in favor of the state law. ALDF, HFA, Farm
Sanctuary, and HSUS filed a joint appeal of the verdict to the Ninth
Circuit appellate court one day after Brown filed.
“The ruling could set a precedent for other farm animal
processors seeking to skirt food safety laws and put meat from other
sick and injured animals, including cattle, into the public food
supply,” said ALDF spokesperson Lisa Franzetta.
“Downed cattle are more likely to be infected with mad cow
disease and more likely to harbor foodborne bacteria, such as E.
coli and Salmonella,” pointed out Franzetta.