The federal court in New Mexico next Friday will hear the motion for a preliminary injunction against USDA granting inspections to equine meat packing houses that are close to opening in New Mexico and Iowa.
It is the hearing that Bruce Wagman, the top attorney for animal welfare groups, said had to happen last month to stop what would be the first horse from legally going to slaughter in the U.S. since 2007.
Wagman is asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction against USDA based on arguments that providing inspection services requires environmental review by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
If the long list of animal welfare groups does not prevail in the federal court hearing on Aug. 2, Valley Meat Company in Roswell, NM is ready to begin equine meat packing operations as early as the following Monday, Aug. 5. Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, IA could begin horse slaughter in an old Louis Rich plant just as quickly.
New Mexico cancelled Valley Meats’ wastewater discharge permit last week, a move that will not stop the horsemeat packing from proceeding, but rather will require the more costly transporting of wastewater.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King intervened in the federal case brought by Wegman’s animal welfare groups. King claims chemicals from the treatments horses receive contaminate all horses. USDA plans post-mortem inspections to check on drug residues in horses.
The possibility of horse slaughter beginning in New Mexico also brought out Robert Redford, “The Electric Cowboy,” to campaign against it with former Gov. Bill Richardson. Redford owns property near Santa Fe and now claims residence in New Mexico after a long association with the Sundance Ranch in Utah.
If and when packing horsemeat resumes in the U.S. and it’s for human consumption, it will be only for export to the many countries around the world where human consumption of horsemeat is common. Any sold in the U.S. would be for non-human consumption, such as to zoos.
A ban on horsemeat packing lasting about 5 years was imposed during the Bush Administration, and then lifted by the Obama Administration after Congressional auditors questioned whether horses were experiencing more inhumane conditions.
USDA meat inspectors are now set to provide inspection services to qualified applicants, at least up until the moment when Congress tells them differently.
And there is a move to do just that in the budget Congress may adopt later this fall.© Food Safety News