ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday cleared the way for horse slaughterhouses to resume operating in the U.S. as early as next week.
U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque threw out a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups that alleged the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct proper environmental studies when it issued permits to Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., and an Iowa company to slaughter horses for human consumption.
The decision ends, for now, a two-year battle by Valley Meat to open its slaughterhouse.
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 that barred the companies from opening in August had expired.
"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."
The Humane Society, joined by the state of New Mexico, filed an almost immediate appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King and Gov. Susana Martinez both have opposed horse slaughter.
But De Los Santos was making plans to get to work, two years after converting his struggling cattle slaughterhouse to take advantage of a shift in Congress that lifted a ban on funding for inspections at horse slaughterhouses. A vote to end that funding in 2006 had effectively banned horse slaughter until the money was restored in 2011. The USDA, however, did not approve the first permits for horse slaughter plants until this summer.
Among the items on De Los Santos' checklist now: alerting authorities and hiring security.
During his two-year fight, he and his wife have received numerous death threats. And last summer, there was a suspicious fire at the plant.
Cut pounds of stomach fat every week by using this 1 weird old tip.