One of two companies with federal approval to operate a horse slaughter plant is dropping its plans.
Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa, now intends to convert to beef processing.
The US Department of Agriculture had given the company approval to begin slaughtering horses, but has been held up by a legal challenge by horse advocates who argued the department should have conducted an environmental review before granting approval.
A judge delayed the opening of the plants with a temporary restraining order, pending a final determination of the matter.
“Responsible Transportation made a smart move by throwing in the towel on horse slaughter,” said Carol Griglione, the Iowa state director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), one of the parties in the legal challenge to the plant’s opening.
“Horse meat is a product of cruelty that Americans don’t want to buy, and horse slaughter pollutes the air and water wherever it occurs. It has no place in Iowa or any other state.”
The HSUS, Front Range Equine Rescue and other horse advocates filed suit against USDA last month, arguing an environmental review was required before the department agreed to place inspectors in horse slaughter plants.
Valley Meat Co. in New Mexico is the other company with federal approval. It remains determined to open.
In doing so, it would become the first horse slaughter plant to operate on US soil since 2007.
The closure of the last plants six years ago did not end the slaughter trade. Horses are instead shipped long distances to plants in Canada and Mexico.
Slaughter proponents argue that regulated plants on US soil are a better alternative to shipping horses long distances out of the country.
Opponents say slaughter is cruel and inhumane, and horses, being flighty by nature, are not suited to abattoir operations.