On Friday, a federal appeals court lifted a temporary ban on horse slaughter in the U.S., removing barriers for plants to open while a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue and others is underway, reported the Associated Press.
Horse slaughterhouses effectively closed in the country in 2007, as a result of Congress eliminating funding for inspections at plants in 2006. While the funding was restored in 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not approve the permits for the first slaughterhouses until summer 2013.
According to the 10th Circuit judge, the USDA adhered to proper procedure in issuing permits to Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico; Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Missouri; and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa. The ruling paves the way for these three companies to commence operation.
The order additionally lifts the emergency status of the case, meaning it could be months before a final decision is reached, Blair Dun, the attorney for both Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meats, told the AP.
Therefore the plants, while nearly ready to open, could remain closed if the plaintiffs agree to post a sufficient bond to cover the companies' losses should they ultimately prevail.
Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico, has stock waiting in Texas feedlots. Owner Rick De Los Santos previously told Indian Country Today Media Network that the plant would be ready to open the second week of November.
Proponents of horse slaughter in the U.S. underscore that since domestic slaughter plants shuttered, hundreds of thousands of horses have been shipped in inhumane conditions yearly to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. With ranchers struggling to control the overpopulation of feral horses, there are two options: slaughter, or their own slow death by thirst or disease.
Still, throughout the west, and therefore much of Indian country, the question of what to do with too many wild, feral or unwanted horses is still a thorny one where there is far less control over equine population and where the big, charismatic animals find themselves in a complex emotional, historical and cultural landscape.
Read more on ICTMN: They Eat Horses, Don’t They