SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a California law against slaughtering livestock that is unable to walk can be applied to pigs.
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski found that federal meat inspection rules did not pre-empt California's ban on slaughtering the animals.
A lower court had sided with pork processors who sought to keep the state from enforcing the ban at swine slaughterhouses.
Kozinski's decision nixed a preliminary injunction granted to the National Meat Association last year by a federal judge in Fresno.
"In effect, the district court reasoned that states may ban the slaughter of certain species, but once a state allows a species to be slaughtered, it cannot impose further restrictions. Hogwash," Kozinski wrote.
California strengthened regulations against slaughtering "downer" animals after the 2008 release of an undercover Humane Society video showing workers abusing cows at a Southern California slaughterhouse.
The video featured cows too sick or injured to stand being dragged with chains and rammed with a forklift.
The incident at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. facility in Chino ultimately led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history.
The federal government also banned the slaughter of "downer" cows as a result, since the animals could be suffering from mad cow disease or other serious ailments.
Under California law, the ban on buying, selling and slaughter of "downer" cattle also extends to pigs, sheep and goats.
Some pork processors claimed the California regulations would prevent them from slaughtering about 2.5 percent of their pigs.
"This California law fails to distinguish between livestock at rest and livestock that have no independent mobility," said National Meat Association chief executive Barry Carpenter, a failure he called critical and potentially illegal.
Carpenter said the association was in discussions with its attorneys on how to proceed.
The Humane Society of the United States, which intervened as defendants in the case on behalf of California, hailed the appeals court's decision as a major victory for animals and consumers.