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California strengthened regulations against slaughtering so-called "downer" animals after the 2008 release of an undercover Humane Society of the United States video showed workers abusing cows at a slaughterhouse.
In a widely expected decision, the high court ruled that the state's 2009 law was blocked from going into effect by federal law administered by the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Federal law "precludes California's effort ... to impose new rules, beyond any the FSIS has chosen to adopt, on what a slaughterhouse must do with a pig that becomes non-ambulatory during the production process," said Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the court's unanimous opinion.
Under California law, the ban on buying, selling and slaughtering of downer cattle also extended to pigs, sheep and goats.
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