The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down California's ban on the slaughter of downed swine, saying the state strayed too far into federal territory.
In a case closely watched by other states as well as the multi-billion dollar livestock industry, the court's liberal and conservative justices unanimously ruled that long-standing federal law preempted California's 2008 measure.
"The California law rums smack into the (federal) regulations," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court.
Kagan's 14-page decision emphasized that the Federal Meat Inspection Act covers a "broad range of activities at slaughterhouses" and that it "expressly" preempts the state law.
The California law in question prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory pigs, sheep, goats or cattle. These are animals that can't walk, because of disease, injury or other causes. The state law further requires that the downed animals be euthanized.
Federal law bans the slaughter of downed cattle, and the challenge was to the state provision that covers swine.
The Federal Meat Inspection Act specifies that a state can't impose slaughterhouse protections "in addition to or different" from the federal requirements. The National Meat Association, in challenging the state law, argued that the state violated this pre-emption rule.
"The (federal law) regulates slaughterhouses' handling and treatment of nonambulatory pigs from the moment of their delivery through the end of the meat production process," Kagan wrote. "California endeavors to regulate the same thing, at the same time, in the same place - except by imposing different requirements.