The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has lifted its emergency injunction from early November, clearing the way for the slaughter of horses before the year ends for meat for export from any of three establishments USDA has found eligible for equine inspection services.
In removing the emergency injunction, the 10th Circuit found those trying to stop USDA from inspecting horsemeat production “have failed to establish a likelihood of success on appeal.” It means that further review will not be expedited of a New Mexico trial court judge’s ruling favoring USDA’s position on horse slaughter.
Blair Dunn, attorney for Roswell, NM-based Valley Meat Co. and Gallatin, MO-based Rains Natural Meats, says his clients are “pushing full steam ahead” to begin processing horsemeat under USDA inspection. Rains reportedly has horses on the premises awaiting slaughter.
Sigourney, IA-based Responsible Transportation, also approved for equine inspection services by USDA, switched over to beef operations while the horse slaughter issue was being litigated.
Keaton Walker, founder and owner of the Iowa company, says his business will continue to process beef and could even sell the business by January unless he can be certain it can process horsemeat under USDA inspection.
Twice before, the three businesses requesting USDA inspections for horse slaughter were given the green light, only to run up against another court injunction.
This time, however, opponents of horse slaughter may not have any other federal court options left. Their appeal to the 10th Circuit will continue on a non-emergency basis that will likely take several months. But, in the meantime, federal Judge M. Christine Armijo’s ruling will stand unless and until the 10th Circuit issues further instructions.
That reality left opponents with only one other play, intervening in state regulatory processes. Larkspur, CO-based Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), the lead plaintiff in the federal case, has filed a 90-page brief with New Mexico regulators and intervened in Missouri, raising state environmental and toxic deposit issues.
For the past two years, the Obama administration and Congress have placed no budgetary restrictions on USDA to prevent equine inspections. Such restrictions existed for about five years, and no domestic horse slaughter has been legally conducted since 2007. However, attempts are under way to reinstate the budget restrictions on horse slaughter inspections.
All sides agree that the slaughter of more than 100,0000 U.S. horses continues annually after the animals are exported to Mexico and Canada. Various factors, including a major drought, high feed prices, the “Great Recession,” and, quite possibility, the end of domestic slaughter options, have contributed to record horse abandonment and starvation in recent years.© Food Safety News