Two years ago, President Obama signed a federal law that that would keep "downed" cows -- animals brought to the slaughterhouse too sick or weak to stand -- out of the human food chain. Other animals -- well, the humans who eat them, really -- haven't had the same kind of federal protections, which is why California passed a similar law regarding "non-ambulatory" pigs three years ago. The law, which was immediately blocked in court, requires these pigs to be removed from the slaughterhouse lineup and dispatched separately.
The meat industry has taken its protest of the California law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court
, the Los Angeles Times
reports today.The National Meat Association is asking the court to strike down the state law for good, arguing that it might pose a real hardship to pork producers. The association's lawyer told the Times
there "would be a 'severe financial impact' on the pork industry if a typical slaughterhouse were forced to cull 200 to 300 pigs a day because they were lying down."
The thing that's screwed up about the association's argument is that it's probably correct: The profit margins on pork are so low that small reductions in the number of pigs slaughtered for food might drastically affect farmers' livelihoods. Apparently, the industry shouldn't bear the burden for ensuring there are as few downed pigs in the slaughteryard as possible. Who, then, should?