Judge puts hold on Valley Meat

August 2, 2013 • Local News

ALBUQUERQUE—A federal judge ruled Friday in favor of animal activists to halt U.S. horse meat slaughter until the USDA completes further envir[auth] onmental analysis.

“The injunction is in place as of this moment,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo Friday afternoon.

Valley Meat near Roswell will not open Monday, as planned.

Armijo set a bond hearing Monday for all parties, including attorneys for the plant in Sigourney, Iowa, the Yakama Nation in Washington, and the plaintiffs.

Valley Meat’s attorney, A. Blair Dunn said he will seek $10 million for the Roswell plant and the plant in Missouri he represents from the plaintiffs to cover financial impacts caused to the companies by the delay.

“It’s what I expected,” Dunn said, following Armijo’s judgment. “(The ruling) is just not supported. We’re going to now focus on how to protect the economic interests of the plant and the economic interest of Roswell in the future.”

The Humane Society of the U.S., Front Range Equine Rescue, and the other plaintiffs, some from Roswell, argued the USDA did not properly carry out a full review of all environmental impacts before issuing a grant of inspection to Valley Meat June 28, and a plant in Iowa a few days later. Specifically, plaintiffs were concerned about drugs present in race horses. The USDA argued the permit was issued correctly and all permits were compliant with guidelines that considered horse meat inspections.

Lead plaintiff attorney Bruce Wagman argued emotionally about what he called was a “shocking display of denial” by the USDA to issue the permits in the past two months.

“The defendant decided to leap, rather than look,” Wagner told Armijo. “Shoot now, rather than wait. The environmental harms are great.”

Armijo asked Wagman a few times to provide solid evidence.

“These are all known facts,” she told Wagman at one point. “What you’re saying here is speculation. This is not the first time a horse slaughterhouse has been inspected.”

Wagman contended communities had been ruined in the past where slaughterhouses were located. If Valley Meat opened, he would no longer be able to fish and camp at the stream nearby, he told Armijo.

Armijo ultimately found the risk to human health and public safety was great enough to warrant a full environmental review.

Wagman couldn’t comment following the trial, as he was late for his plane trip to return to San Francisco.

Attorney John Boyd, representing the Yakama Nation, said he would prepare additional issues for the next hearing.

“Of course, we’re very disappointed in the judge’s ruling,” Boyd said.

Boyd argued the Washington confederated tribes and bands had 12,000 feral horses that destroyed the habitat of plants and animals. The tribe had no way of dealing with the horses that were expected to double in numbers in four years, and slaughter was the only solution.

“This is a crisis for the Yakama Nation,” Boyd said.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, who joined with the plaintiffs, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“I am pleased the Judge Armijo issued a temporary restraining order … that suspends the grant of inspection for the horse slaughter house operations in Roswell, “ King said.

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