Judge rejects Humane Society lawsuit seeking end to horse slaughter
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – A judge ruled Tuesday that the slaughter of horses for meat may continue in the United States, thwarting an effort by the Humane Society, and some in Congress, to stop the practice.
American horse meat is sold mostly for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Some goes to U.S. zoos.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected most of a Humane Society case, ruling that the group is not entitled to sue over its allegation that Congress intended to ban horse slaughter.
In the 2006 agriculture spending bill, Congress eliminated funding for salaries and expenses of horse meat inspectors. Inspections are required before horses can be killed.
The congressional action “on its face effectuates only a change in federal funding which does not invoke the environmental, aesthetic, informational or economic interests” of the plaintiffs, the judge ruled.
In response to requests from two slaughter plants in Texas and one in Illinois, the Agriculture Department established an inspection fee system financed by the companies, which said the Midwest communities could be facing $41 million in losses.
Wild-horse advocate Willis Lamm, of Lyon County’s Least Resistance Training Concepts, decried the decision.
“I think it stinks,” he said. “(United States Department of Agriculture)is clearly telling Congress ‘in your face,’ because Congressional intent was not disguised. But some of these executive departments can do whatever they want.”
The entire Nevada congressional delegation voted in favor of cutting funding for horse- meat inspections.
Lamm said it is the young and healthy horses that are more likely to be sent to slaughter, rather than aging or infirm ones.
“This slaughter is not for an old, worn-out horse some family is stuck with,” Lamm said. “If you’re in Europe and you’re spending your hard-earned euros on horse meat, you don’t want some old or diseased animal. Prime horses are the ones that go to market.”
He said keeping horses in private hands rather than sending them to slaughter helps the entire agricultural economy, in addition to humanitarian concerns.
“Keeping the animal in private hands means the owners are going to support our agricultural system,” he said. “They’re going to support the hay grower, the hauler, the feed store, the farrier and the vet. If we want to look at what benefits our changing agricultural system, it’s keeping horses in private hands instead of dumping them for foreign consumption.”
Lamm noted that Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of horse meat for human consumption, and added that the Agriculture Department’s going around the ban on horse meat inspections could encourage Congress to approve Ensign’s bill.
“When Congress gets done with some heavier business, this may prompt them to pass the Ensign horse slaughter ban,” he said. “Everyone has been snoozing to see how this moratorium would work. This may push the bill forward.”
Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, representing the plants, said the companies are pleased with the decision.
“The legislation only changed funding for inspections. The Humane Society believes Congress intended to stop slaughter; it did not,” Stenholm said in an interview.
The judge allowed the Humane Society to proceed with its allegation that some of the group’s members suffer negative environmental consequences from the operation of the slaughter facilities because the members own or lease property nearby.
Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the group will decide whether to appeal the ruling that went against the group or pursue the allegation of environmental impact in U.S. District Court.
“We stand by the majority of Congress and the American people who want our horses protected, not butchered for French and Belgian dinner plates,” said a statement by animal protection groups that brought the case.
— Nevada Appeal reporter Karen Woodmansee contributed to this report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111, ext. 351.