A horsemeat lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups was tossed out by a federal judge Friday, opening the potential for our nation’s slaughterhouses to start packaging up horsemeat for human consumption.
The lawsuit attempted to block slaughterhouses from killing horses and processing the meat, reports CBS News on Friday, but U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo ruled in favor of two companies that had been issued permits to process horses. Horsemeat packaging could start as early as this coming week.
Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M. has been battling for two years against injunctions filed against them by various animal rights groups; the most recent lawsuit alleged that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to conduct proper environmental studies at the plant.
CBS News reports that plant owner Rick De Los Santos and his attorney, Blair Dunn, “admitted they were surprised when the ruling came down, hours after a temporary restraining order (TRO) that barred the companies from opening in August had expired.”
Dunn in particular said he was shocked that the Albuquerque, N.M. federal judge ruled in their favor.
“If I were a betting man, I probably would have lost a lot of money on this,” Dunn said. “I thought the court was headed in a different direction on this since she had issued the TRO… I am very, very happy to be wrong.”
De Los Santos says he is fully aware that their decision is an unpopular one, and has braced for negative feedback and even beefed up plant security for the weeks ahead. The former cattle rancher said he and his family have already received death threats.
“We will have some angry people I bet,” he said. “But we are doing what we are supposed to and that's it.”
The debate over horsemeat is an emotional one; some see horses as a companion animal while others see them as livestock potential. Those in favor of the ruling say it’s better to see the U.S. deal with horse overpopulation by regulating their slaughter at domestic facilities rather than shipping them to unsanitary Mexico slaughterhouses where the hoses are likely treated inhumanely.
The Humane Society said they were disappointed in the ruling and vowed to appeal.