WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2013— Horse slaughter operations may be able to move forward after a federal appeals court on Friday lifted a temporary hold on USDA inspections of the facilities.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver decided that animal protection groups, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Front Range Equine Rescue, “failed to meet their burden” for continuing an injunction on the operations.
Congress effectively banned horse slaughter in 2006 by halting USDA plant inspections. Due to Congressional action that lifted the ban in 2011, USDA is required to grants inspection for facilities to engage in commercial horse slaughter. Proposed operations include Valley Meat Co. in New Mexico, Responsible Transportation in Iowa, and Rains Natural Meats in Missouri.
HSUS and other plaintiffs in the case argued that the operations could produce “irreversible environmental harm from toxic horse slaughter byproducts.” The plaintiffs also said USDA did not carry out proper environmental assessments.
However, the appeals court ruled last week that the animal advocate groups did not provide sufficient evidence that the operations would cause irreparable harm to the environment. The animal advocate groups plan to continue to file appeals for a permanent ban.
Although horse meat is not sold for human consumption in the United States, some horse welfare groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), do not oppose the facilities due to the overpopulation of horse herds on native lands and the subsequent resource depletion. Another issue is one of animal welfare—specifically, abandonment of unwanted horses, as well as inhumane transportation to foreign slaughter facilities.
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