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Ex Ante Facto: Slaughterhouse Opponents Try Applying Law Before It Is Enacted

The United States Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws: we can’t pass laws today that punish people for actions they performed legally yesterday.

The City of Sioux Falls appears to be applying a time-machine version of that principle to fight the lawsuit from Smart Growth Sioux Falls has filed to halt construction of Wholestone Farms’ ad hoc butcher shop on the site of the future meat factory that Sioux Falls voters might ban in November. In a response filed Friday, the city says laws can’t work ex ante facto:

In another portion, the filing echoes Wholestone board chair Luke Minion, who has repeatedly pushed back on opposition to the project by stating that the company is following the city’s existing laws.

“Because Smart Growth’s proposed ordinance banning all new slaughterhouses is not operative or legally enforceable, no Sioux Falls public official must follow it,” the filing reads. “Rather, Sioux Falls officials — including those officials in the Sioux Falls Planning and Building Services Department — are legally obligated to apply and enforce the Sioux Falls Ordinances as they currently exist” [Trevor J. Mitchell, “Sioux Falls Files Motion to Dismiss Civil Complaint Against Mayor Paul TenHaken, Wholestone,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.09.30].

SGSF is promoting a ballot measure to prevent construction of any new slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls, including Wholestone’s. That law has not been approved by the voters and thus is not in effect. Sioux Falls city government is not obliged to follow a law that has not yet been approved or taken effect. Quite the contrary: Sioux Falls city government is obliged to follow the law as it is. Current law says Wholestone can build a butcher shop on land zoned for butcher shops. And if Wholestone completes that task and starts chopping and selling piggies at that site before November 8, then the law Sioux Falls voters might pass, as SGSF wrote it, with an exception for expansion of existing slaughterhouses, will allow Wholestone to expand its little butcher shop into as big of an industrial meat grinder as it wishes.

Such are the hard facts of the law, both ante and post election. We can’t punish Wholestone Farms or the City of Sioux Falls for following the law as it is written, and we definitely can’t force anyone to follow a law before it is written.


  1. jim 2022-10-03

    For me, the question is – can the mayor or city authorities delay inspections or permits for a month? Of course they can. It’s the responsible thing to do when a vote is imminent. After all, this is an effort that was openly designed to subvert the will of Sioux Falls residents. The same residents that our officials are obliged to represent.

    We do not have to accept another slaughterhouse inside city limits. It is unbelievable that it has gotten this far. And I still have not read whether or not the city or state offered incentives to Wholestone to locate here. Do these officials represent all of us, or this one corporation with a very large budget?

    I was over four miles from Smithfield the other day and the winds brought the smell all the way to SW Sioux Falls. And they want another one in town?

  2. Donald Pay 2022-10-03

    South Dakota “leaders” always sleepwalk into these quagmires. There are no leaders there. Ten Hakken is as much of a slut as Janklow. They get anally violated every damn time. But people just keep electing these whores, who just can’t say no and make it stick. They get talked into spreading their legs. This is the sewage ash scam all over again. Nobody has the guts to tell these a-holes to go eff themselves.

  3. P. Aitch 2022-10-03

    Every clean energy, high tech sector in America started as an agricultural hub. Then they elected leaders who made the hard choices for long term rewards. Those leaders and their voters told agriculture to go somewhere else because this land is a tech sector now and we’re rewarding tech companies and discouraging agriculture.
    It’s your town Sioux Falls residents. You get to decide. Don’t be bullied by backwater squatters with zero vision and zero innovation skills.

  4. flopster 2022-10-03

    This is off topic, but see that KN ( defacto SD Gov) is headed to Scottsdale AZ Oct 4, stumping for Kari Lake for Gov.
    Can’t miss a chance to ‘latch’ onto the latest in the news, who is also a trumpster. Guess she needs to ‘get away’ after the Friday night
    debate. Wonder how the back is holding up ? How is this promoting SD I ask.

  5. grudznick 2022-10-03

    I think she was also on a TV show called Saturday Night, which I believe is filmed in New York City, on the night after the debates and right before the branding of the bison herds. I’m just sayin…

  6. jim 2022-10-03

    (Argus Leader – December 10, 2021) “Investors behind a $500 million pork processing plant in northeast Sioux Falls say harvesting 10,000 hogs a day won’t exacerbate the pungent odor that sometimes lingers over the city now. But a lack of odor abatement rules in South Dakota law and city ordinance means Wholestone Farms, Inc’s new neighbors will have to take their word for it.”

    Take their word for it? Killing 10,000 hogs a day won’t smell. Yea. Got it.

  7. P. Aitch 2022-10-04

    Catch up, grudznichts. It’s well past your senior bedtime but not mine and I’m MUCH older than you. Don’t drink as much alcohol in the daytime, though. Your Governor was portrayed on SNL aka Saturday Night, which is now on at 9:30 instead of 10:30. Kristen Noem has a ways to go before she’s invited on the show live. She does have the sense of humor of Spiro Agnew going for her. #grins

  8. leslie 2022-10-04

    its kind of extraordinarily beautiful walking past the historic rendering plant on Rapid Creek in the gap, its gone now after a fire and the owners have gone on to BH Harley Davidson who seem to have traded for assaults on the senses of citizens, and the environment, for profit. STENCH to ROAR. Not much different from the dust-blanketed west Rapid City gravel pits of some more rich guys. Free to pollute for greater profit.

    Paint that LCJ. BTW how white is your smile?

  9. LCJ 2022-10-05

    Due to regular brushing and flossing my teeth are quite white. By the way Les-lie, your posts are hinging on lunacy.

  10. Ryan 2022-10-05

    i don’t want a new slaughter house in town any more than most of my neighbors, but i will give credit where it’s due: these people figured out a way to legally beat the system (so far anyway)… the drafters of the proposed ordinance should have been more careful with their wording… but it may turn out that wholestone should have kept their cards close to the vest and just did their thing without advertising it… that attention may be their undoing. Tune in a 9 for more.

  11. leslie 2022-10-07

    Calling a slaughter house/packing plant a butcher shop is just a pretext corporate lawyers enable w/rich guy political power. How did we get here?

    That “Donald Trump can command a lead in the Republican primaries? Trump is the product of a deliberate Republican strategy, adopted by Richard Nixon’s people in 1968, to attract voters with an apocalyptic redemption story rather than reasoned argument. It has taken almost 50 years, but we have finally arrived at the culmination of postmodern politics in which Republican leaders use words to create their own reality.”

    They have become pros at misleading messaging. Their brainwashed voters bought it.

    ***GOP lies that brought us Donald Trump,
    Republican front-runner

    Donald Trump did not happen overnight. He’s the product of a dangerous, cynical GOP strategy that dates back years***


  12. leslie 2022-10-07

    After World War II, President Dwight Eisenhower and men like New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller led the Republican Party with policies based in reasoned argument.

    1964…Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination when Rockefeller’s womanizing spectacularly imploded his candidacy. Movement Conservatives used their hero’s nomination to advance a new kind of politics.

    “Voters are basically lazy,” one Nixon [left with Goldwater’s failure] media adviser wrote. “Reason requires a high degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier. Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand…. When we argue with him, we… seek to engage his intellect…. The emotions are more easily roused, closer to the surface, more malleable….” Nixon’s people hired…Roger Ailes [yes, Rupert Murdoch’s hit man behind Fox News] to stage “town hall” events for the candidate. Ailes hand-picked “regular” people to question Nixon in carefully managed shows from which the press was excluded. Ailes arranged applause, the set, Nixon’s answers, the camera angles, the crowd cheering the candidate, the careful shading of Nixon’s makeup. “Let’s face it,” he said. “A lot of people think Nixon is dull. Think he’s a bore, a pain in the ass.” But carefully managed television could “make them forget all that.”

    It did. And so, after 1968, Republicans increasingly relied on their apocalyptic redemption story.


    “America was in terrible trouble, because grasping minorities, women and workers wanted government policies that would suck tax dollars from hardworking white people. Democrats backed those policies because they would do anything to buy votes. It was up to Republicans to restore America to its former glory. In a time of dramatic economic and social upheaval, this story reassured voters left behind in the new conditions that the answers to their problems were simple, and that coming up with those answers required no great education or thought. It simply required the right principles.”

    The … story was never based in reality. Facts repeatedly gave way to the narrative that America was on the ropes because of Democratic social welfare policies that sucked tax dollars and threatened the nation’s safety.

    Richardson, Salon article

  13. P. Aitch 2022-10-07

    @Leslie – 1964 ~ Rockefeller’s womanizing spectacularly imploded his candidacy.

    He didn’t learn at all. I was working in The Bright Angel Lodge steakhouse in 1971 when Mr. Rockefeller and entourage arrived one evening. I’ll admit I was still pretty green and not much removed from the dirt farms of SD. Near their meals end a staffer cornered me in the back and told me to ask around the female workers because Nelson wanted a companion for the evening in his room at El Tovar. I didn’t but someone probably asked.

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