The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Friday, Dec. 13, lifted a temporary ban on domestic horse slaughter, opening the door for three companies in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri while an appeal of a lawsuit filed by HSUS, Front Range Equine Rescue and other animal rights organizations proceeds.
In 2006, by eliminating funding for USDA inspections at horse processing facilities, Congress effectively banned horse slaughter. In 2011, Congress restored the inspection funding, but USDA did not approve the first permits for horse processing until summer 2013, making these the first horse processing facilities eligible to operate in the United States since 2007.
In response, the animal rights groups filed a lawsuit in a New Mexico federal court to permanently enjoin inspectors from USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service from carrying out inspections at three horse slaughter facilities, Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa.
The suit alleged violations under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The court entered a temporary restraining order that halted operations at the plants while the merits of the case could be reviewed. The district court rejected the animal rights groups’ argument, which led to the groups appealing the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. In November, the 10th Circuit issued a temporary injunction while it reviewed the case.
The 10th Circuit’s order late last week said the animal rights groups had “failed to meet their burden for an injunction pending appeal.” Horse slaughter facilities approved by USDA may now begin operation under the court’s decision.
According to the Associated Press, Blair Dunn, an attorney for Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meats, said the order lifts the emergency status of the case, meaning it will likely be months before a final decision is issued and that the plants are ready to open. "They are getting ready to go as quickly as they can. It shouldn't take too long. Not more than two weeks," he said.
HSUS said “the fight for America’s horses is not over.”