WASHINGTON – An animal protection group has asked a federal court to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from providing horse meat inspections for a fee in March while the group’s lawsuit is pending.
The Humane Society of the United States requested a temporary restraining order in documents filed late Wednesday. The organization is suing, along with other animal protection groups and three individuals, to halt the slaughter of horses at three plants.
USDA plans to provide the plants with fee-for-service inspections of horse meat beginning March 10 so the plant owners can continue selling horse meat for consumption overseas. There is no substantial market for horse meat in the United States.
President Bush signed a law last year that eliminated funding for the salaries and expenses of federal horse meat inspectors.
Supporters of the law had hoped it would force an end to horse slaughtering, and insist USDA is trying to circumvent it with the fee-for-service inspections. But the agency has said it is obligated by Congress to provide the service.
The plants are Beltex Corp. of Fort Worth, Texas; Dallas Crown Inc. of Kaufman, Texas; and Cavel International Inc. of DeKalb, Ill.
The lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C.