Since the lawsuit was filed, one of the meat companies, Responsible Transportation of Iowa, withdrew plans to open a horse slaughterhouse citing legal delays that were costing them too much money. They instead have applied for a permit to operate a cattle slaughterhouse.

With Arimijo's move this week, attorneys for both sides say they are pleased the court will push the case forward as much as possible and both agree they are anxious for the case to reach a conclusion.

The lawsuit represents the crowning moment in an issue of horse slaughtering on U.S. soil and to further determine whether exporting horse meat is a safe practice. Plaintiffs in the case argue the large number of drugs that are routinely administered to horses throughout their life make horse meat unfit for human consumption. Federal law does not allow for commercial packing of horse meat for consumption in the U.S., but in at least eight foreign countries, the consumption of horse meat is legal and common.

In 2007, legal horse slaughtering and the export of horse meat came to a halt after Congress failed to budget horse meat inspections by USDA. But congressional action in 2011 restored funding for inspections, prompting a number of slaughterhouses to request permits. USDA issued the permits in June saying they had no legal reason to deny those permits based upon current law.

The issue has sparked an emotional national debate about how to deal with the large number of abandoned or unwanted horses all across the country. It has divided animal welfare groups, ranchers, Indian tribes, horse owners and others.

While many claim horse slaughter operations are cruel and provide a product for human consumption that is both unsafe and environmentally unfriendly, others say transporting horses great distances to unregulated slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada fails to offer a better solution to the growing problem of abandoned or unwanted horses.


More articles of interest on Southwest Farm Press:

Horse slaughter issue by the numbers: PART II

Horse slaughter issue divides and confuses: PART I

Magistrate orders bond in horse slaughter case

Federal court halts slaughterhouse openings