The Humane Society of the United States praised the temporary ban on horse slaughter signed by U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo last week. But the group’s attorneys this week say the order is “potentially invalid.”
They’ve filed a new motion seeking expedited review so Armijo’s highly publicized order can be clarified.
UPDATE: Government attorneys for USDA have until next Wednesday at noon (Aug 21) to respond to the plaintiff’s motion for expedited review of the bond and temporary restraining order in this case. The same deadline applies to Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation, according to the order signed Friday by Judge Armijo.
In that order, in addition to enjoining the federal defendants (USDA) from dispatching inspectors or carrying out inspection services at the horse slaughter facilities of intervener-defendants Valley Meat (VM) and Responsible Transportation (RT), the judge also stopped the businesses “from commercial horse slaughter operations until further order of this Court,” says the latest motion from the HSUS-led plaintiffs.
“Because Plaintiffs neither brought any cause of action against VM or RT, nor sought any remedy against them, the Court’s order enjoining them is potentially invalid, and likely to lead to unintended consequences,” it continues. “The only defendants Plaintiffs sued – and whose actions may be properly restrained based on violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) – are the federal defendants.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the “potentially invalid injunction” against the two equine businesses has “dramatic financial implications” for the animal-welfare groups because it led to a federal magistrate requiring them to put up a bond of $495,000 just to cover a period of less than 30 days.
The business reality of that favorable bond decision, however, did not go far for the Sigourney, IA-based Responsible Transportation. “We can’t just sit with our heads down,” said RT’s President Keaton Walker. “We have to get back to work.”
Walker said the company could not afford the time and expense of waiting around in a federal courtroom in New Mexico and would instead shift to beef operations. The other company that won a grant of inspection for equine operations, Roswell, NM-based Valley Meat, is not dropping out.
Plaintiffs want the bond eliminated entirely under a so-called “public interest” exception. They also argue that neither NEPA nor APA provide the court with any jurisdiction to “enjoin non-federal third parties.”
In requesting the expedited review, the plaintiffs say it was not necessary for Armijo, the chief federal judge for New Mexico, to “enjoin the conduct of the slaughter facilities in order to provide complete relief.”
“The injunction against the federal defendants is all that is needed to ensure that they do not carry out inspections – which would in turn authorize slaughter for human consumption – pending this Court’s review,” they say.
In other words, no inspections means the companies cannot slaughter horses for human consumption. Further, the plaintiffs say the bond amount was based on “wishful thinking” and “fanciful projections.”
Government attorneys for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service have not yet responded to the plaintiff’s latest motion. Armijo plans on holding a hearing on a preliminary injunction within 30 days.© Food Safety News