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Yet another roadblock has been thrown into the path of Valley Meat Company of Roswell, New Mexico.
USDA: "We had little choice"
USDA officials claimed with the reinstatement of funding for inspections they had little choice but to consider those requests. But after several months of no action, Valley Meat Company of Roswell filed suit against the federal agency claiming they were dragging their feet in issuing permits because of "political pressures and the growing opposition to the horse slaughter issue."
That case was settled when USDA issued permits in June to two companies, Valley Meat Company in Roswell and Responsible Transportation Company in Iowa. But in July, a federal lawsuit filed by animal protection groups against the USDA charged the federal agency failed to comply with federal environmental guidelines before issuing the permits, resulted in an Albuquerque federal judge issuing a temporary injunction preventing the plants from opening until the lawsuit could be resolved.
Eventually, after the injunction had been extended, the case was thrown out of court, once again clearing the way for Valley Meat Company to begin horse slaughter operations. The other permit holder, Responsible Transportation in Iowa, surrendered the permit charging the delay in opening and the added cost of the lawsuit forced them to opt for a cattle processing facility instead of a plant to process horses.
Since that time, however, other companies have moved forward to secure permits from USDA.
But in spite of the court throwing out the lawsuit, animal protection groups appealed the court's decision and once again a temporary injunction blocked Valley Meat Company from opening. Eventually the federal appeals court in Denver upheld the lower court's ruling and denied the appeal and lifted the injunction permanently.
Valley Meat Company immediately proceeded with preparations to finally open the plant but, for a third time, legal action was filed, this time as a result of the State of New Mexico's lawsuit, that resulted in a third injunction to block plans to open the Roswell plant.
Blair Dunn, the attorney representing Valley Meat Company, charged last week that the state lacks jurisdiction in the issue and suggested New Mexico State Attorney General Gary King is using the high profile and emotionally-charged case for “political ambitions.” King is a gubernatorial candidate in this year's New Mexico state election.
The issue of horse slaughter has been an emotionally-charged one that has affected opponents and proponents within the horse industry and beyond. Both sides have presented compelling testimony in support of their positions.