Breaking News: 10th Circuit Lifts Injunction in Horse Slaughter Case

As you may recall from this prior post, the plaintiffs in Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack requested and received an emergency injunction in early November to prevent horse slaughter plants from being inspected pending appeal of the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  That injunction was lifted on Friday, December 13, 2013, allowing horse slaughter plants to move towards commencing operations.


The Tenth Circuit lifted the injunction finding that the plaintiffs “failed to met their burden for an injunction pending appeal.”  Specifically, the court considered four factors to determine whether an injunction was proper: (1) likelihood of success on appeal; (2) threat of irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted; (3) absence of harm t the opposing parties if the injunction is granted; and (4) any risk of harm to the public interest.  In considering these factors, the court found that the plaintiffs “have failed to establish a likelihood of success on appeal” with regard to both the directive and grants of inspection; plaintiffs failed to produce any non-speculative evidence of harm if inspections are conducted and horse slaughtering commences; considerable harm will occur to the slaughter houses if they continue to be prevented from operating their business; and plaintiffs failed to show harm to the public interest by allowing inspections to continue.  [Read Order here.]

This does not signal an end to the controversy.  The decision by District of New Mexico judge Christina Armijo remains on appeal before the Tenth Circuit.  What the court’s decision last week means is simply that there is nothing preventing the proposed horse slaughter facilities to move forward now while the case waits to be heard on appeal.  Plants in New Mexico and Missouri are expected to proceed with requesting federal inspections in order to begin processing in the upcoming weeks.  Attorney for Valley Meat Co., a New Mexico company seeking a horse slaughter permit, says that the company intends to be up and running within approximately 2 weeks, although they might agree to postpone if the plaintiffs agree to post a bond sufficient to cover lost profits if defendants ultimately prevail in the litigation.

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