A federal lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction to overturn the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent permit approval for a horse meat plant in Roswell has been transferred from U.S. District Court in California to the U.S. District Court in New Mexico. The suit was filed July 1 by the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue of Larkspur, Colo., three other groups and five individuals, four of whom live in Roswell, reports the Albuquerque Journal.

Valley Meat received a permit for federal meat inspection on June 28 and hoped to become the first horse meat processor in the country since 2007. Several other companies have applied for horse slaughter permits, including Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa; Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo.; American Beef Company/Unified Equine in Rockville, Mo.; Trail South Meat Processing Co. in Woodbury, Tenn; and Oklahoma Meat Co. of Washington, Okla. Responsible Transportation has also been granted inspection permits, according to the USDA. An additional company is expected to be granted a permit in the coming days, the Department added.

The federal suit alleges in part that the USDA has violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing grants of inspection and establishing a drug residue testing plan for horse slaughter without conducting required environmental reviews. The suit also claims that, by providing a grant of inspection to domestic horse slaughter plants, the USDA has acted “arbitrarily and capriciously and not in accordance with law …” The suit asks the federal court to set aside the grants of inspection already approved, to stop issuing such permits and to refrain from implementing its equine drug residue testing plan until the suit is settled.

Albuquerque attorney A. Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meat Co., said Valley Meat is seeking intervenor status in the federal suit. Valley Meat also has a federal suit pending against the USDA, claiming the agency intentionally delayed acting on its application for an inspection permit.

Source: Albuquerque Journal