Federal District Court Judge M. Christina Armijo has amended her order temporarily banning horsemeat packing in the U.S. because it was too broadly drawn. Armijo’s original Aug. 2 temporary restraining order said USDA was ordered to suspend or withhold the provision of “meat inspection services” to Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation until further order of the court.
Armijo officially amended the temporary restraining order Wednesday to order USDA “to suspend or withhold the provision of horse meat inspection services to Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation until further order of the Court.” And although the judge’s Aug. 2 order promised a hearing on the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary injunction, it has not yet been scheduled. There has been a blizzard of filings over the request to change the temporary restraining order and the injunction bond.
Bruce A. Wagman, the San Francisco attorney representing the Humane Society of the United States along with horse rescue and animal welfare groups, wants Armijo to waive under the “public interest exception” the nearly $500,000 per month bond plaintiffs would have to pay to see the case move forward.
“There is no dispute that Magistrate Judge Scott entered a massive injunction bond in this case – perhaps the largest ever in a public interest NEPA case,” Wagman wrote. “Defendants were able to secure this crippling bond by exploiting an oversight in the Court’s order – which not only enjoined the only party sued and the only party accused of violating federal law, but also the private non-federal company interveners.”
Plaintiffs in the case also argued that since Iowa’s Responsible Transportation has withdrawn its equine application for the cattle business and New Mexico’s Valley Meat is having state water permit issues and isn’t approved for shipment to the European Union, there is no real need for the bond coverage. (The EU is a large consumer of horse meat for human consumption.)
In the blizzard of paper now before the court, however, perhaps the most dramatic is the declaration from Ricardo De Los Santos, general manager of Valley Meat in Roswell, NM.
“Valley is a small locally operated Hispanic business that lacks the resources to protect itself from the economic harm sought to be done to it by the large multi-million activists groups that are seeking to enjoin USDA from facilitating Valley’s lawful agribusiness operation,” he states.
De Los Santos says Valley has spent $150,000 retrofitting its plant for equine operations and is now out almost $22,000 per day in gross revenue for each day the court prevents it from processing horse meat.
“The actions of Plaintiffs have trapped Valley with no alternative but to devote its extremely diminished and dwindling resources toward litigation and the bare minimum needed to keep the plant in a ready state should the hurdles imposed by Plaintiffs and this Court be removed,” his declaration states.
The Yakama and Navajo Indian nations are intervenors on the side of the defendants in the cases in part because of their concern about the damage being done to tribal and public lands by the swelling populations of wild horses.
Principal defendants in the case are Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elizabeth A. Hagen and Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Alfred Almanza.© Food Safety News