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10th Cir Grants Temp Injunction Stopping Horse Slaughter Inspections

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on November 08, 2013 12:01 PM

While the thought of eating Seabiscuit is probably revolting to you, as evidenced by the general uproar surrounding the Ikea horse meat meatball scare, many people around the world eat horse meat. The U.S. was poised to export horse meat to other countries including China, Russia, and Mexico but now a twist of legal events has put the plan on hold, reports Reuters.

USDA Funding for Horse Slaughter Inspections

Funding for the inspection of horse slaughter plants was banned in 2006, and continued until 2011, when Congress omitted language for the ban in a USDA funding bill, according to The New York Times. As a result, six plants have applied for USDA inspection services.

District Court of New Mexico

Because lack of funding no longer provided a ban, several plaintiffs including the Front Range Equine Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States, filed a claim alleging that defendants, USDA officials, violated the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA") because defendants failed to prepare an environmental impact statement ("EIS") or environmental assessment ("EA") before granting inspections.

After a flurry of motions, consolidations and orders, including an order enjoining the defendants from dispatching U.S.D.A. inspectors, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico was ready to determine whether the initial orders enjoining defendants from allowing inspections of the horse slaughterhouse facilities should be extended.

The district court struck a blow to the plaintiffs when it denied their request for a permanent injunction, and dismissed their cause of action with prejudice, according to the Los Angeles Times. The same day District Judge Christina Armijo issued her opinion, plaintiffs filed for a notice of appeal to the Tenth Circuit.

Tenth Circuit Temporary Injunction

In a further twist of events, a two-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit granted an emergency request by plaintiffs to temporarily enjoin the USDA from providing inspections for horse slaughter pending their appeal, reports Reuters.

President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, stated: "Horse slaughter is a predatory, inhumane business, and ... we are redoubling our efforts in Congress to secure a permanent ban on the slaughter of our horses throughout North America," according to the Associated Press.

While horses have a temporary reprieve, their fate hangs in the hands of the Tenth Circuit.

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