Animal protection groups are reeling after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver lifted an emergency injunction last week that once again could clear the way for U.S. companies to begin domestic horse slaughter in the weeks ahead.

The temporary injunction had been granted Nov. 4 by the same court after Front Range Equine Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups filed an appeal when a federal court in Albuquerque threw out a lawsuit in November that was submitted earlier this year. After that lawsuit was filed in July, a temporary injunction was issued that prevented potential horse slaughter facilities in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri from opening their doors until the full case could be heard. The case was subsequently thrown out.

The court action last Friday is the latest development in an ongoing legal battle between a growing number of companies that want to begin domestic horse slaughter operations and those opposed to it. The practice of slaughtering horses in the U.S. was suspended nearly eight years ago when Congress failed to fund federal meat inspections. But a lack of Congressional or White House action to extend United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget restraints earlier this year forced the federal agency to issue permits in June.

Last Friday the Denver Court's action ratifies an Albuquerque federal judge's decision issued in November that the U.S. Department of Agriculture did follow proper procedures in issuing permits to Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico; Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Missouri; and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa earlier this year.


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As a result of that first temporary injunction in July, Responsible Transportation of Iowa withdrew its application for a horse slaughtering permit from USDA and opted to open a cattle processing facility instead. But shortly thereafter companies in both Oklahoma and Wyoming expressed additional interest in applying for federal permits.