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."

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".

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