Animal welfare plaintiffs challenging in federal court USDA’s inspection of two horsemeat packing businesses will have to post a bond of almost $500,000 to have their case proceed in the short term. A federal magistrate in Albuquerque set the amount on Thursday after hearing from the parties in the case, including Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, IA. USDA has agreed to inspect those two companies if they begin to slaughter horses for human consumption in other countries. A federal restraining order currently prevents the two companies from starting operations and, if the plaintiffs post the bond, the next step will be a hearing on whether to turn the restraining order into a preliminary injunction. Attorneys for the businesses said they stand to lose millions if the case drags on for months. The bond amount is intended to cover only the possibility that the animal welfare groups lose the case in the next 30 days. Congress prohibited USDA from spending any funds on equine inspections from 2006 to 2011. During that time, no legal horse slaughter for human consumption was to occur within U.S. borders, although pirate operations were known to pop up in places such as rural Dade County, FL. Since President Obama and Congress lifted the ban, several companies, mostly in small towns in the western U.S., have applied for USDA inspection services. The amply funded Humane Society of the United States leads the plaintiffs moving to block that from happening. Obama’s proposed budget includes a provision for resuming the ban, a move also endorsed by the House Appropriations Committee.