The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said on
Friday that animal protection groups had "failed to meet their
burden" for continuing an injunction barring the U.S. Department
of Agriculture from providing horse-meat inspection services to
Roswell, New Mexico-based Valley Meat Co, Responsible
Transportation in Iowa, and Rains Natural Meats in Missouri.
The decision could pave the way for the first horse slaughter
operations in the United States in more than five years.
A temporary injunction was granted to animal protection groups
by the appeals court last month after the animal advocates lost
a legal battle to ban horse slaughter permanently.
The advocates had argued that the Department of Agriculture
failed to carry out environmental reviews before it allowed the
companies to expand their slaughterhouse operations to include
horses for human consumption.
The animal advocates are continuing to press for a permanent
ban, filing an appeal through courts in New Mexico.
In lifting the temporary injunction, the federal appeals court
in Denver said the groups had not "presented any non-speculative
evidence that they (or the environment) will suffer irreparable
harm" if limited horse slaughters resume.
Horse meat cannot be sold as food in the United States, but can
be exported. The meat is sold for human consumption in China,
Russia, Mexico and other countries and is sometimes used as feed
for zoo animals.
Congress effectively banned horse slaughter in 2006 by saying
the USDA could not spend any money to inspect the plants.
Without USDA inspectors, slaughterhouses cannot operate.
The ban had been extended a year at a time as part of USDA
funding bills, but the language was omitted in 2011.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere;
editing by Barbara Goldberg
and Peter Cooney)
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