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Redford joins horse slaughter fight

Robert Redford has joined the fight against the reopening of horse slaughter plants in the US.

The Hollywood veteran announced the formation of the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, whose first act is to join a federal lawsuit filed by the Humane Society and other groups to block the planned August 5 opening of the first horse slaughterhouses in the US to operate in more than six years.

"Horse slaughter has no place in our culture," Redford said in a statement. "It is cruel, inhumane, and perpetuates abuse and neglect of these beloved animals."

Meat from the slaughterhouses would be shipped to some countries for human consumption and for use as zoo and other animal food.

After more than a year of delays and a lawsuit by Valley Meat Co, the US Department of Agriculture in June gave the company approval to begin slaughtering horses. Officials said it was legally obliged to issue the permits, even though the Obama administration opposes horse slaughter and is seeking to reinstate a congressional ban that was lifted in 2011.

Another permit was approved a few days later for a plant in Iowa.

The move has divided horse rescue and animal welfare groups, ranchers, politicians and Indian tribes about what is the most humane way to deal with the country's horse overpopulation and what rescue groups have said are a rising number of neglected and starving horses as the West deals with persistent drought.

Blair Dunn, a lawyer representing the horse slaughterhouses, asked: "Why don't they use their money to actually save animals instead of harassing people in their lawful business?"

Meanwhile, New Mexico attorney general Gary King said he had filed a motion to intervene on behalf of horse slaughter opponents.

The state's Environment Department told Valley Meat that it will not renew its lapsed discharge permit without a public hearing. Mr Dunn said the lack of a permit would not prevent the plant from opening as planned, but it would increase the cost of doing business because the plant would have to ship out its waste.

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