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Nine U.S., Canadian and Mexican meat and livestock groups are appealing a decision made on Sept. 11 by the U.S. District Court that concluded forcing meat producers to include country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on their products is not forced speech.
Appellants include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations.
The initial brief filed as part of the appeal argues that the trial court incorrectly accepted the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) argument, which it says was inconsistent with rationale offered by AMS in the final rule. According to the groups, AMS said the new final rule "is to correct misleading speech and prevent consumer deception" that purportedly occurred because of requirements AMS imposed in its 2009 version of the rule.
“Even putting aside the absurdity of a government agency referring to itself as an agent of 'deception,' the District Court should have rejected AMS's belated declaration because it was a plainly impermissible post hoc rationalization. Yet the District Court accepted it anyway," the brief said.
The appellants also contend that when the trial court accepted AMS' rationalization, it applied the wrong legal standard regarding the First Amendment and compelled speech because the mandated labels at issue are not voluntary deceptive advertising.
“There is no such voluntary misleading advertisement here; AMS is the source of the alleged ‘deception’,” the brief said. “No court has ever before applied lesser scrutiny for compelled speech in such circumstances.”
The lawsuit to block implementation of the COOL rule was originally filed July 8, 2013 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. A motion for preliminary injunction was filed July 26, 2013.