Animal-Rights Lawyer: Horse Slaughter Lawsuit Is 'Moot'

Bruce Wagman, a San Francisco-based lawyer with Schiff Hardin LLP, cited the absence of an "active controversy" because there is "no possibility of horse slaughter."

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

January 30, 2014

2 Min Read
Animal-Rights Lawyer: Horse Slaughter Lawsuit Is 'Moot'

Albuquerque, N.M.An annual budget signed by President Obama has rendered "moot" a lawsuit challenging horse slaughter, a lawyer representing animal-rights groups said.  

A provision in the $1.1 trillion budget prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from carrying out inspections for horse slaughter. Obama signed the bill on Jan. 17.

Last year, a federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit that challenged horse slaughter. Front Range Equine Rescue, The Humane Society of the United States and others filed an appeal that remains pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

"We basically don't think the court has jurisdiction over the case anymore," said Bruce Wagman, who represents appellants in the case.

Wagman, a San Francisco-based lawyer with Schiff Hardin LLP, cited the absence of an "active controversy" because there is "no possibility of horse slaughter." Courts have no authority to hear a case that meets the legal definition of mootness.

"We are going to file something in the next couple of weeks," Wagman said.

Although he didn't provide specifics, it's plausible the appellants will seek to dismiss the lawsuit because the alleged harmthe slaughtering of horses in the United Statesis theoretical. USDA is prohibited from inspecting facilities for horse slaughter throughout the remainder of the government's fiscal year 2014 ending Sept. 30.  

Facilities in New Mexico and Missouri had been seeking to slaughter horses for human consumption, although they faced state administrative and legal hurdles as well.  

Holly Gann, horse slaughter campaign manager for The Humane Society of the United States, said her organization is calling on Congress to enact a permanent ban on the practice. Such legislation (Safeguard American Food Exports Act) was introduced last year in the House and Senate.

The bills also would end the practice of exporting American horses for slaughter outside the United States, Gann noted. She said more than 160,000 horses were sent to Canada and Mexico in 2012 to be slaughtered.

A. Blair Dunn, a lawyer representing two facilities that have been seeking the green light to slaughter horsesValley Meat Co. in New Mexico and Rains Natural Meats in Missourihas said the companies would look into filing a lawsuit that the funding ban violates provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.

Wagman characterized such a proposal as a "crazy idea".

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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