Government attorneys representing USDA’s top three food safety officials say it’s time to end the court battle that has temporarily banned horse slaughter in the U.S. They’ve asked the U.S. District Court in New Mexico to move immediately to an expedited hearing and ruling on the merits of the case.
This would eliminate the next step that had been anticipated in the case – a hearing on whether to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction. They had already won a temporary restraining order.
And, in another motion, Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant U.S. attorney general, has asked the court for permission to file a so-called “surreply” to respond “to Plaintiff’s numerous accusations that Federal Defendants and the United States have acted in bad faith in opposing Plaintiffs’ motion to modify the temporary restraining order and objections to Magistrate Judge Scott’s imposition of a bond requirement ….” In his request, Dreher cites a dozen specific instances where the plaintiffs, led by the Humane Society of the United States, made accusations that he claims are “unfounded and untrue, and easily refuted. In one, the Plaintiff’s say the U.S. hopes to divert funds from ‘important animal rescue and sheltering’ and ‘other public interest cases challenging federal agency abuses.’
“Since the sole focus of the Plaintiff’s reply brief is to make new accusations that attack the motivations and integrity of the United States, Federal Defendants should be afforded the opportunity to set the record straight by filing a surreply,” Dreher’s motion continues.
The federal defendants are U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Administrator Al Almanza.
They were sued by HSUS and other animal and horse protection groups for giving “grants of inspection” to two small horse meatpacking plants, one in Iowa and the other in New Mexico, that planned to open during the first week of August. However, a federal judge in New Mexico issued a temporarily restraining order on Aug. 2 stopping both companies from going forward.
While winning the temporary retaining order, the plaintiffs have strenuously objected to the bond imposed on them by a federal magistrate. The bond, almost $500,000 a month, is intended to reimburse the horse-slaughter companies if the plaintiffs lose the case.
The assistant AG says an expedited hearing on the merits will reduce the “burden and exposure” of both the plaintiffs and the two companies. While a hearing on the preliminary injunction was promised within 30 days of the Aug. 2 temporary restraining order, a date has not yet been made public.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn