International Equine Business Association intervenes in NM horse processing lawsuit | TSLN.com

International Equine Business Association intervenes in NM horse processing lawsuit

The International Equine Business Association (IEBA) today filed court documents in order to intervene in and defend Valley Meat in the Valley Meat LLC. v. Vilsack et. al. and HSUS, Civ. No. 12-CV-1083, Federal District Court for District of New Mexico, lawsuit. This case was brought by a meat plant in New Mexico who is attempting to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to comply with existing federal law and complete the final inspections allowing the plant to begin to process horses.

The plant has complied with all federal requirements, but without final inspection which has now been delayed for over a year, it cannot open for business. Valley Meats made substantial changes to their facility, laid off employees, and met all requirements but has been unsuccessful in obtaining the necessary inspection. This in spite of the clear letter of the law requiring USDA to provide inspection after annual riders were lifted from the Agriculture Appropriations bill passed by Congress in November of 2011. The original suit was brought pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) for "agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed."

Unfortunately the case got significantly broader and more complicated when Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) moved to intervene in the litigation on January 14, 2013. HSUS is arguing that because of its continued political and litigation pressure as well as its federal rulemaking petitions to stop FSIS from inspecting horse processing plants, HSUS should be granted intervenor status in the litigation. In the litigation, the HSUS will argue that horse slaughter should be prohibited and that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) applies to all inspections and licensing of horse processing facilities.

In addition to its Motion to Intervene, the HSUS has filed a Motion to Dismiss the New Mexico case claiming that the New Mexico court does not have jurisdiction over the litigation because of HSUS' previous litigation of the industry. IEBA is intervening to support Valley Meats because if HSUS is successful in arguing that NEPA applies, as a practical matter, it is unlikely that any horse facilities will ever open. IEBA member companies are seeking to open horse processing facilities in a number of different states to restore the U.S. horse industry, provide a humane option for horse owners, serve the thriving worldwide market, and to serve the niche domestic market for hiqh-quality U.S. cheval. Cheval is the common term for meat produced from the equine species in the same way that beef is the term for meat from cattle, and pork is the term for meat from hogs.

In addition, HSUS has filed a motion to dismiss the New Mexico case. IEBA, as well as animal agriculture and horse industry supporters nationwide are afraid that if HSUS is successful in having this case dismissed in New Mexico, that HSUS will bring another challenge in the D.C. District Court before the same judge who ruled that the "fee-for-service ante-mortem horse slaughter inspection system" rulemaking required NEPA compliance in the case that closed the last remaining horse plant in the U.S. in 2007 in Illinois. We strongly believe that a better forum for that litigation would be the District Court in New Mexico, rather than in the D.C. District Court. Of gravest concern of all, however, to the broader meat and animal agriculture industry is that if the HSUS is successful in arguing that NEPA applies to horse slaughter, they will attempt to argue that NEPA applies to all animal slaughter-cattle, pork, chicken-which would provide them endless opportunity to obstruct and challenge all meat production in the U.S. and interfere in the entire meat industry.

Joining IEBA to intervene in the litigation to assist Valley Meat in opposing the HSUS arguments are several organizations as well as individual horse industry professionals. Attached please find the Motion to Intervene which is being filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, and the Memorandum in Support of Motion to Intervene, along with associated affidavits from the intervening parties-the International Equine Business Association, Sue Wallis affidavit; New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association, Caren Cowen affidavit; South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Silvia Christen affidavit; Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), affidavit Bill Bullard; Marcy Britton affidavit, Bill and Jan Wood affidavit, Leroy and Shirley Wetz affidavit, and Doug and Judy Johnson affidavit. Also attached is "The Promise of Cheval" a comprehensive and documented report produced by IEBA.

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Financial assistance is needed. IEBA welcomes contributions to our legal fund in support of this intervention. Please make checks payable to IEBA, and send to Sue Wallis, U.S. Chair, IEBA, PO Box 71, Recluse, WY 82725 or contact Wallis at 307 680 8515, sue.wallis52@gmail.com.

–IEBA