Court Blocks Horse Meat Inspections

A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked the Agriculture Department from providing horse meat inspections for a fee.

The decision in a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States is another setback for the horse slaughter industry.

In January, a federal appeals court upheld a 1949 Texas ban on the slaughter of horses for the purpose of selling the meat for human consumption overseas. The ruling forced two plants in Texas to scale back operations.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the humane society, said the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia effectively shuts down operations in an Illinois horse slaughter plant, the only plant still operating in the U.S.

"This should finish them off and this now should stop the horrible slaughter lines" at the Illinois plant, Pacelle said.

Congress stripped funding for horse meat inspections in 2005, but the USDA devised a plan to provide the inspections for a fee for slaughter plants. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found the USDA did not follow federal procedures for setting up the inspection fee program.

The ruling also adds momentum to efforts by animal protection groups to get Congress to pass a horse slaughter ban, he said.

"We won in the Republican Congress and our hand is strengthened by the new alignment in the Congress," he said. Democrats control Congress, although some Democrats from agricultural areas oppose the slaughter ban.

Charlie Stenholm, a former Texas congressman who has lobbied against the ban, said the fight is far from over. He had not seen the ruling but expected it would be appealed. "We're in the fight," the Democrat said.

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The Associated Press

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