It’s possible USDA might like getting told by a federal judge that it must provide equine inspection services to Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM. That way, it couldn’t be blamed for the decision, which is likely to remain unpopular with many horse lovers. More than a year after Congress lifted a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S., the USDA has yet to provide any equine inspection services as the law would require it to do for any qualified applicant. Rick de los Santos, owner of Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, has an application pending with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) to provide equine inspection to his company. Valley Meat for 20 years slaughtered beef cattle under USDA inspection. Now it wants to slaughter horses for human consumption. After months of waiting, however, de los Santos sued FSIS for dragging its feet. He blames politics, and says the delays are costing his company thousands of dollars. To up the ante, de los Santos has also filed a defamation lawsuit against the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, and Animal Protection of New Mexico. Those are among the organizations that don’t want to see horse slaughter resumed in the United States, and they sometimes come up with harsh commentary for companies that want to get into the business. Horse slaughter, common worldwide, has always made Americans queasy because horses are seen more as companions to people than mere farm animals. Congress let the five-year ban on horse slaughter expire. Speaking at the Southwest Meat Association last summer, FSIS Administrator Al Almanza said the agency would be ready to accommodate the inspection of horse slaughter operations by the end of 2012. FSIS has to formally respond to the Valley Meat lawsuit in January.