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Published August 13, 2013, 04:16 PM

Iowa plant drops horse slaughter plan

An Iowa company is dropping plans to slaughter horses in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that temporarily banned the practice as animal welfare groups challenge it in court, a company executive said Tuesday.

By: Associated Press,

ALBUQURQUE, N.M. — An Iowa company is dropping plans to slaughter horses in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that temporarily banned the practice as animal welfare groups challenge it in court, a company executive said Tuesday.

Responsible Transportation, which owns a slaughterhouse in Sigourney, Iowa, can’t afford to wait for more deliberations in court and will instead turn its focus to cattle processing, the company’s president, Keaton Walker, told The Associated Press.

“We just can’t sit with our heads down,” Walker said. “We have to get back to work. Our main focus now is going to be beef.”

A federal judge issued a restraining order earlier this month in a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The case has sparked an emotional national debate about how best to deal with the tens of thousands of wild, unwanted and abandoned horses across the country.

Responsible Transportation was one of two companies that had secured federal permits for horse slaughter. Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., has been at the fore of the fight, pushing for more than a year for permission to convert its cattle plant into a horse slaughterhouse.

The Department of Agriculture in June gave the company the go-ahead to begin slaughtering horses. USDA officials said they were legally obligated to issue the permits, even though President Barack Obama’s administration opposes horse slaughter and is seeking to reinstate a congressional ban that was lifted in 2011.

Walker’s company had been given federal approval to slaughter horses at the company’s Iowa plant starting Aug. 1. Walker said his Iowa plant will now seek federal approval to become a beef-only operation.

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