ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.A federal judge on Friday cleared the way for horse slaughterhouses to resume operating in the U.S. as early as next week.
U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque threw out a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups that alleged the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct proper environmental studies when it issued permits to Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., and an Iowa company to slaughter horses for human consumption.
The decision ends, for now, a two-year battle by Valley Meat to open its slaughterhouse.
Plant owner Rick De Los Santos and his attorney, Blair Dunn, admitted they were surprised when the ruling came down, hours after a temporary restraining order that barred the companies from opening in August had expired.
“If I were a betting man, I probably would have lost a lot of money on this,” Dunn said. “I thought the court was headed in a different direction on this since she had issued the TRO. … I am very, very happy to be wrong.”
The Humane Society vowed to appeal and said it would work with states to block the plants from opening.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King and Gov. Susana Martinez both have opposed horse slaughter.
King said Friday he was disappointed in the ruling.
But De Los Santos was making plans to get to work, two years after converting his struggling cattle slaughterhouse to take advantage of a shift in Congress that lifted a ban on funding for inspections at horse slaughterhouses.
A vote to end that funding in 2006 had effectively banned horse slaughter until the money was restored 2011.
The USDA, however, did not approve the first permits for horse slaughter plants until this summer.
Among the items on De Los Santos’ checklist now: alerting authorities and hiring security.
During his two-year fight, he and his wife have received numerous death threats. And last summer, there was a suspicious fire at the plant.
“We will have some angry people I bet,” he said. “But we are doing what we are supposed to and that’s it.”
The debate over a return to domestic horse slaughter has been an emotional one that centers on whether horses are livestock or companion animals and what is the most humane way to deal with the country’s horse overpopulation, particularly in the drought-stricken West.
Supporters say it is better to slaughter unwanted horses in regulated domestic plants than to ship them to sometimes inhumane plants in Mexico.
The issue has divided horse rescue and animal welfare groups, ranchers, politicians and Indian tribes.
The companies want to ship horse meat to countries where it is consumed by humans or used as animal feed.
De Los Santos estimated it would be seven to 10 days before he was up and running.
But Dunn said Rains Natural Meats, in Gallatin, Mo., was poised to open as early as Monday.
READ The rest of the AP article HERE: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57610502/judge-clears-way-for-domestic-horse-slaughter/
PLEASE take Action
Please take a moment to send a polite email to your federal legislators in Congress and urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094), a bill to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption.
Find your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=IL
Find your Representative in the House: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
THIS ACTION IS VITAL FOR ALL HORSES WILD AND DOMESTIC!
Go to Wild Horse Education to read about our actions to protect our beloved wild horses and burros from abuse neglect and slaughter and to follow all our girls: Faith and Dawn (the two McDermitt orphans that were saved at the slaughter auction after this summers contended roundup) and Rosie and Kidron (Our Sheldon mare and foal that were removed from the range in September… as Sheldon begins the removal of all horses from the Refuge by next fall).