The Humane Society of the U.S. sued the government to block inspections that would allow horse slaughtering to resume, saying officials haven’t examined the environmental effects of making horse meat again available for human consumption.
The U.S. Agriculture Department shouldn’t check horse-slaughter facilities that have received grants of inspection, test residue for any slaughter facility, or inspect any facility without conducting a detailed environmental review, attorneys for the Human Society and other groups said today in a complaint in federal court in San Francisco.
“If the grant of inspection is set aside, then the horse slaughter plants will be prohibited from operating, the current status quo of no horse slaughter in the U.S. will continue, and there will be no detrimental health, environmental, aesthetic, or economic impacts” felt by those suing, according to the complaint.
The government has authorized resumption of horse slaughter for human consumption even with the Agriculture Department’s “actual knowledge” that killing horses causes significant environmental harms and horse meat endangers consumers, Bruce Wagman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in the complaint.
The disposal of blood and offal hurts the environment because of drugs and substances horses are given throughout their lives, and the byproducts of slaughter may contaminate groundwater and enter the food chain when sludge is distributed on crops, according to the complaint.
Nanda Chitre, a Justice Department spokeswoman, had no immediate response to an e-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.
USDA announced June 28 that horse-slaughter inspections had been authorized, Wagman said. Six applications for the inspections have been submitted by facilities in New Mexico, Missouri, Iowa, Tennessee and Oklahoma, according to the complaint.
Wagman is seeking a hearing by July 8 on a request for a temporary order to block the inspections “to ensure that defendants do not move forward” as the court considers the lawsuit, he said in a letter to the court.
The USDA said it was forced to act under the law when a company, Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, met all the requirements to be inspected. A facility near Roswell, New Mexico, on June 28 was granted approval to become the first to slaughter horses for human consumption since 2007.
The last U.S. horse-meat plant closed six years ago after Congress banned money for inspections. That ban lapsed in 2011, and Congress appropriated money for the reviews.
Four other horse conservation groups and five people who live near horse-slaughter facilities are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The case is Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack, 13-cv-3034, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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