02/24/2006 1:00AM

Group tries to block USDA plan


The Humane Society of the United States has asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would block the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plan to provide inspections at horse slaughterhouses for a fee.

The Humane Society, along with several other animal-rights organizations, filed a lawsuit against the agriculture department earlier this month. The request for a temporary restraining order was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia late Wednesday in an attempt to block the fee-for-service program while the earlier suit is pending.

In the request, the Humane Society reiterates arguments that the fee-for-service program violated the will of Congress and several provisions of law. The agriculture department adopted a rule allowing horse slaughterhouses to pay for inspections after the U.S. Congress passed legislation last year that removed funding for horsemeat inspectors for one year, beginning on March 10.

The request states: "Absent emergency relief from this court, the rule adopted by federal defendants will allow such slaughter to continue - by dramatically changing the way in which federal inspections for the horse slaughter are funded - in a manner that, plaintiffs maintain, is directly contrary to Congress's command, and that will irreparably harm plaintiffs' interests."