Horse Slaughter/Animal Cruelty

Judge Rejects Most of Humane Society Suit

By PETE YOST Associated Press Writer
2006 The Associated Press - March 14, 2006

WASHINGTON A judge ruled Tuesday that the slaughter of horses for meat may continue in the United States, thwarting an effort by the Humane Society and some in Congress to stop the practice.

American horse meat is sold mostly for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Some goes to U.S. zoos.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected most of a Humane Society case, ruling that the group is not entitled to sue over its allegation that Congress intended to ban horse slaughter.

In the 2006 agriculture spending bill, Congress eliminated funding for salaries and expenses of horse meat inspectors. Inspections are required before horses can be killed.

The congressional action "on its face effectuates only a change in federal funding which does not invoke the environmental, aesthetic, informational or economic interests" of the plaintiffs, the judge ruled.

In response to requests from two slaughter plants in Texas and one in Illinois, the Agriculture Department established an inspection fee system financed by the companies, which said their communities could be facing $41 million in losses.

Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, representing the plants, said the companies are pleased with the decision.

"The legislation only changed funding for inspections. The Humane Society believes Congress intended to stop slaughter; it did not," Stenholm said in an interview.

The judge allowed the Humane Society to proceed with its allegation that some of the group's members suffer negative environmental consequences from the operation of the slaughter facilities because the members own or lease property nearby.

Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the group will decide whether to appeal the ruling that went against the group or pursue the allegation of environmental impact in U.S. District Court.

"We stand by the majority of Congress and the American people who want our horses protected, not butchered for French and Belgian dinner plates," said a statement by animal protection groups that brought the case.

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