Judge orders plaintiffs to post bond in horse slaughter case

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Aug. 9, 2013- A federal magistrate judge in New Mexico required animal rights groups to post a $495,000 bond after they won a restraining order last Friday against horse slaughter facilities.

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Late last week, a federal judge granted a Temporary Restraining Order against USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to prevent the inspection of horse slaughter facilities to go forward, disallowing the slaughter houses to slaughter horses. In the Order, the district court indicated a preliminary injunction hearing will be held within 30 days, or by Sept. 3.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Hayes Scott concluded that both defendants Responsible Transportation in Iowa and Valley Meat Co. in New Mexico “will suffer harm and injury by virtue of the temporary restraining order and that there is nothing further that either defendant can do to mitigate these damages and loss.”

The magistrate judge ordered that the Humane Society of the United States and the other plaintiffs post the injunction bond by Aug. 16. He granted the bond based on the amount of damages to the companies within the thirty-day restraining order period. Damages are projected to include Valley Meat's lost profits at $450,000 and Responsible Transportation's overhead expenses at $60,000.

HSUS led several groups in the lawsuit against the companies, alleging that USDA failed to conduct proper environmental reviews before issuing new permits to slaughter horses.

Valley Meats in New Mexico would be the first plant to process horse meat for human consumption since 2007, when Congress blocked USDA from funding horse meat inspections. In 2011, Congress removed the ban and cleared the way for resumption of domestic horse slaughter. USDA granted a permit for the New Mexico facility in June and shortly thereafter, one for the Responsible Transportation in Iowa.

U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo agreed with the plaintiffs Friday that USDA's drug residue testing program represented a major federal action that should have been subject to environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

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