Federal court blocks horse slaughter

Magistrate requires animal rights groups to pay slaughterhouse companies $500,000 in bond to cover potential losses during case trial.

A federal court has issued a temporary restraining order to halt U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughter plants, which effectively prevents any plant from opening on U.S. soil. Earlier this summer USDA had given the go ahead to slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Iowa.

Front Range Equine Rescue, The Humane Society of the United States, and other animal rights groups filed suit against USDA last month challenging the agency’s failure to conduct the required environmental review prior to placing inspectors in horse slaughter plants. The injunction will remain in place for 30 days, at which time the court will decide whether to extend the order.

U.S. Magistrate Robert Scott ordered animal rights groups to post a bond of nearly $500,000 as they continue their legal fight. Attorneys for the plants argued that the delay could cost them more than $1.5 million in lost revenues in just one month. The magistrate determined the bond covers the companies' costs and lost profits for the next 30 days should the animal rights groups lose the case. Within that time, another hearing is planned in federal court to determine the fate of the temporary ban.

Since Congress has not yet acted to ban horse slaughter inspection, the Food Safety Inspection Service is legally required to issue a grant of inspection. Both the House and Senate appropriation bills banned funding for horse slaughter. However, Congress lifted the ban on spending for horse slaughter inspection in 2011, which legally obligates FSIS to restart its horse slaughter inspection program.

At the end of June the agency approved applications for horse slaughter facilities at Valley Meat Company LLC in Roswell, N.M. and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa for equine slaughter.

Given that FSIS last conducted equine inspection seven years ago, a significant amount of time was required to reestablish the processes needed for inspection of equines, the agency said in a statement. Because of FSIS' stringent inspection process, testing capabilities, and labeling requirements, American consumers should not be concerned that horse meat will be labeled and sold as the meat of another species, as happened earlier this year in other countries.

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