Nat’l Meat Ass’n v. Harris

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Preemption
  • Date Filed: January 23, 2012
  • Case #: 559 F.3d 1093 (9th Cir. 2010)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) expressly preempts California's amended penal code application against federally inspected swine slaughterhouses.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), 21 U. S. C. §601 et seq., contains an express preemption provision prohibiting states from imposing requirements with respect to the premises, facilities, and operations of any federally inspected slaughterhouse establishment that are in addition to, or different than, those under the federal Act. California amended its penal code to criminalize slaughterhouses that fail to immediately euthanize (and bar from human consumption) livestock that are unable stand or walk without assistance. The National Meat Association filed suit against the State of California for injunctive relief barring application of the state law in federally regulated swine slaughterhouses based on federal preemption grounds. After the District Court granted the injunction, the Ninth Circuit vacated the injunction concluding that FMIA did not expressly preempt the California statue.

The Supreme Court reversed holding that the FMIA expressly preempts California’s amended penal code as it applies to federally inspected swine slaughterhouses. California’s §599f, which regulates swine slaughterhouses, imposes different and additional requirements than the requirements of the FMIA. Specifically, the California statute requires that slaughterhouses remove nonambulatory pigs from the production process. Although, the FMIA does not specifically regulate off premises sales activity, the California statute serves to regulate how slaughterhouses must handle nonambulatory pigs on their premises. It is therefore preempted by FMIA. Respondent argued that §599f falls outside the FMIA’s scope because they exclude a class of animals from the slaughtering process, while FMIA extends only to animals turned into meat. This argument was rejected because the FMIA addresses not just food safety, but humane treatment, as well.

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