A lawsuit challenging the Department of Agriculture’s plan to control a potential avian influenza outbreak can proceed, a federal judge ruled last week, rejecting the department’s motion to dismiss for lack of standing.

The Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups sued USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service over its National Environmental Policy Act analysis of the plan. They contend that APHIS should have considered an alternative that would “incentivize producers who give animals room to move naturally, thus reducing the risk of disease spread, instead of rewarding those who cram animals into cages,” HSUS said in a release announcing the judge’s decision.

HSUS, Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary want APHIS to prepare a more thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the plan. The agency’s Environmental Assessment “permits the reimbursement of taxpayer dollars to the same farms whose poultry confinement practices helped incubate and spread disease in the first place, thereby allowing farms to maintain inhumane practices that will inevitably cause the cycle of outbreak to begin again,” their complaint says.

U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. found the plaintiffs have standing to challenge APHIS’s analysis. “[U]ndertaking a full EIS would redress plaintiff’ alleged procedural injury, and the result may alleviate the allege harm to their concrete interests,” he wrote.

APHIS did not respond to an email seeking comment.

For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.