Court date set for Valley Meat Co.

September 5, 2013 • Local News

Jill McL[auth] aughlin
Record Staff Writer

The attorney representing Valley Meat Co. said Thursday a federal judge’s decision to expedite a hearing to decide whether the horse slaughter plant can operate, might allow the plant to open as soon as November.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo issued a restraining order blocking the plant and an Iowa company from opening. Animal rights activists sued the federal government to stop the practice.

Armijo found that horse slaughter facilities posed a great enough risk to health and public safety to warrant a full environmental review before the USDA should be allowed to issue permits of inspection.

Valley Meat’s owner expected to wait up to a year before a final ruling was made to again allow the federal inspections to begin, attorney Blair Dunn said.

“For Valley, it means we may be out of this sooner, rather than later,” Dunn said.

The Humane Society of the United States and other groups that spearheaded the lawsuit to halt the inspections filed a motion last month to have Armijo’s ruling clarified, in an attempt to avoid putting up a $495,000 monthly bond.

The motion claimed the temporary restraining order was “potentially invalid,” and the bond had “dramatic financial implications” for the animal-welfare groups. Armijo granted an expedited review of not only the bond, but of the entire case.

The bond was awarded to Valley Meat and another plant in Sigourney, Iowa, to cover financial losses incurred while the temporary injunction remains in place.

The plaintiffs have since paid the first $495,000 and will likely be ordered to pay for September and October.
“The bond should likely have to be posted and tripled,” Dunn said.

October’s hearing will be an appeal of the administrative record of the case.

“There’s really not a lot of evidence to be heard in this case,” Dunn said. “We disagree with the initial legal reasoning in this case. This strictly is just a review of the record.”

The court has been supplied with the record. Armijo could decide to agree with her original decision, send the matter through an appeal process or overturn her decision.

“She could go ahead at the end of October and say, ‘No, USDA has done everything right,’ and we can go to work,” Dunn said.

The other option Armijo has, would be to permanently stop the federal government from issuing permits altogether.
However, the defendants—including attorneys for the USDA, Valley Meat, plants in Iowa and Missouri, and the Yakama Nation in Washington—will argue against Armijo’s original ruling, based mainly on the fact that her ruling was not based on the law, Dunn said.

“We’re getting closer to a resolution, and hopefully to work,” Dunn said.

“Let’s just get it done.”

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