A judge’s ruling has largely cleared the way for horse slaughter to resume in the United States.
US. District Court Judge Christina Armijo, in a ruling in Albuquerque on Friday, ruled that the United States Department of Agriculture was not required to conduct environment impact assessments before granting equine inspection services to meat plants.
In doing so, she denied the application for a permanent injunction in the case, filed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and several other animal protection groups.
Armijo, who originally issued a temporary injunction to prevent three plants opening while she made a final determination, ruled that the department had little or no discretion over whether to issue a grant of inspection to the companies. It had a duty to inspect meat and meat products, she ruled.
The suit arose after the US Department of Agriculture granted federal inspection services for three proposed horse slaughter plants.
The approvals were considered the last major impediment to the resumption of horse slaughter, which has not occurred on US soil since 2007.
It is understood one of the original plants granted approval has since opted to process beef, but Valley Meat Company, based in Roswell, New Mexico, and Rains Natural Meats, in Missouri, are reported to remain determined to commence operations.
Attorney Blair Dunn said the companies were pleased with the decision, describing the judge’s decision as well reasoned and thorough.
“Both companies will now focus on final preparations to open and begin work.”
The HSUS voiced its disappointment over the ruling, saying it would appeal. It said it would also work with the states to block the plants from opening in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico.
It vowed to step up efforts in Congress to stop the slaughter of American horses, not only on US soil but in Canada and Mexico.
President and chief executive Wayne Pacelle said: “Our legislative and legal activities have prevented horse slaughtering on American soil since 2007.
“With today’s court ruling and the very real prospect of plants resuming barbaric killing of horses for their meat in the states, we expect the American public to recognize the urgency of the situation and to demand that Congress take action.
“Court fights and state legislative battles have been important, but this is an issue of national importance and scale, and Congress should have an up-or-down vote on the subject.”
Another of the plaintiffs in the case, the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, expressed its disappointment.
“We are extremely disappointed in today’s decision which opens the door to the senseless slaughter of one of our most precious and treasured animals,” it said in a statement.
“While we had worked hard towards, and hoped for, a different outcome, this development will not deter our steadfast commitment to protect these animals and to help develop humane alternatives to this barbaric practice.”