SANTA FE — The Navajo Nation is about to wade into the heated debate over a horse meat processing plant in Roswell and will support Valley Meat Co. becoming the first horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. in seven years.
“They’re eating up the land and drinking all the water,” Erny
Zah, spokesman for Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley told New Mexico Watchdog of the feral horses on Navajo Nation land that encompasses 27,425 square miles, including parts of Arizona and Utah as well as a large section of northwest New Mexico.
Zah estimated there are 20,000 to 30,000 “feral horses on our lands,” and that Navajo Nation lawyers in Washington, D.C., are in the process of finalizing a letter that Shelly will sign in support of the horse slaughter facility “with the next couple of days.”
“I’m sympathetic to the native nations but all this is going to do is make New Mexico the slaughter state,” said Phil Carter of Animal Protection New Mexico, one of the facility’s opponents. “We have to move forward beyond this outdated and cruel slaughter model.”
The debate over the facility in Roswell has sparked heated arguments that extend beyond state borders.Opponents of the facility include Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, former Gov. Bill Richardson, state Attorney General Gary King and
State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, as well as actor Robert Redford and animal rights groups. The Humane Society of the United States is one of a slew of plaintiffs seeking an injunction to stop the company from opening its slaughterhouse operations.
Supporters say that given the rising cost of hay, horses have been abandoned and left to starve. They argue it’s better to have unwanted and dying horses killed in a federall -inspected facility in the U.S. than have them sent to plants in places like Mexico, where they often meet gruesome deaths in unsanitary conditions.
“Which would you rather do, put them down in a humane fashion or let them starve to death,” the facility’s attorney Blair Dunn
said earlier this month. The debate has become more intense as Valley Meat Co. hopes to open as soon as Aug. 5. A federal court hearing is set for Friday in Albuquerque
Last Saturday, a fire broke out at the company and officials suspect it may have been deliberately set. The blaze burned part of the exterior of Valley Meat Co.’s building and damaged a refrigeration unit. A Chaves County sheriff’s lieutenant described the fire as “very suspicious.”
“It was an act of domestic terrorism,” Dunn told the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership Tuesday.
Zah said the Navajo Nation’s decision to weigh in on the matter is “more economic” than anything else.
“We’re already in a drought,” Zah said. “We already have our registered cattle and sheep and registered horses to care for. We’re concerned about water and vegetation” being eaten by feral horses. Zah said a horse slaughter facility in Roswell is simply closer and more cost-effective.
“We need some place to take them,” he said. “There are other options but they are more costly …The plant Roswell provides us this opportunity.”
But Carter says there are other options, including injecting horses with contraceptives, gelding stallions and euthanizing them.
But isn’t that expensive?
Carter points to the New Mexico Equine Protection Fund that his group administers and says the cost to tending to feral horses has been reduced to about $200 per head. “And there’s no reason those costs couldn’t come down more,” Carter said.
“They’re sacred animals,” Zah acknowledged but added, “We also have a kinship with our land. There’s a delicate balance there. Everything is related, everything is intertwined. When one is out of balance, we have to take care of that delicate balance.”
Supporters of the plant have estimated there are 9,000 feral horses on Mescalero Apache land in southern New Mexico. Numerous phone calls from New Mexico Watchdog to Alfred LaPaz, acting president of the Mescalero tribe, seeking comment have gone unanswered.
Blair Dunn, the attorney representing the companies, "Valley Meat Co." and "Rains Natural Meats" in the federal lawsuit regarding the opening of Horse Slaughter facilities, gives an interview to Mike Jaxson. Dunn maintains the position that his clients and the USDA should be given the green light to start slaughter operations, despite the fact that a proper environmental review (NEPA) hasn't been conducted. He also gives a brief mention of the suspicious June 27th fire at Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico.
>>>Click Here for more information on the alleged arson that took place at Valley Meat Co on July 27, 2013
Valley Meat Co in Roswell, New Mexico
Arsonists set fire to the southeastern New Mexico company that planned to resume domestic horse slaughter next week, the company's owner said Tuesday. "They tried to burn the place down," Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santo said Tuesday in reference to opponents who have been making threats against the company over the past year as it has fought the federal government for permission to convert its cattle operations into a horse slaughterhouse.
Chaves County officials told the Roswell Daily Record they are investigating what they characterized as a "very suspicious" blaze. Sheriff Rob Coon did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday, but in the past, he has expressed concern about potential trouble at the Roswell plant.
Attempts by companies like Valley Meat Co. to resume domestic horse slaughter have ignited an emotional national debate that has resulted in a string of threats against De Los Santos, his family and his business. "We have had some say, `I hope your building burns down,'" De Los Santos said. "That's not good at all. What are they going to do next? Take a pot shot at us when we are walking in?"
On Saturday, De Los Santos said someone apparently jumped the fence, then poured accelerant over the compressors to his refrigeration unit. A passer-by alerted authorities.
"The fire inspector was out there," De Los Santos said. "He took samples of the dirt and stuff just to make sure. But he said this was something that was not done by electricity or lightning. He said something was poured on it to light it."
De Los Santos says the company will be unable to open as planned Monday without a working refrigeration unit.
The company also goes to federal court Friday to fight attempts by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups to block the opening of Valley Meat and another recently approved horse slaughterhouse in Iowa. The groups contend that the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct the proper environmental reviews before issuing the companies permits to slaughter horses.
The USDA also opposes horse slaughter. But after being sued by Valley Meat Co. for failing to act on its application, the agency said it was obligated to issue the permits since Congress lifted a ban on domestic horse slaughter in 2011.
Meat from the slaughterhouses would be shipped to some countries for human consumption and for use as zoo and other animal food.
Source: L.A. Times by Tony Perry
RAMONA, Calif. — Filaree, daughter of Anza and Fiera, is standing in her field — which currently is 140 acres of pasture land in this rural, horse-loving community northeast of San Diego. Inquisitive, unafraid of visitors and with a gentleness that belies her designation as a "wild" equine, Filaree is among 20 horses in the pasture, all mares and foals. Four stallions, including Anza, are kept in a corral miles away.
DNA testing has shown that the mares and stallions and their recent offspring are descended from horses that carried a Spanish military expedition into the region in the mid-1700s. Their history is intermixed with the triumphs and tragedies of early California. But though their past is storied, their future is uncertain, possibly dependent on the wild-horse policies of the federal Bureau of Land Management.
"These horses are no different than the grizzly bear, the mountain lion and the wolf — they're our heritage," said Kathleen Hayden, member of Coyote Canyon Caballos d'Anza, a group dedicated to protecting the small herd.
John Kalish, field manager for the BLM office with responsibility for San Diego and Riverside counties, said that while he too finds the horses beautiful and wants them to survive, his agency does not think relocation is the answer. "We feel it's unrealistic to release these horses back to the wild," Kalish said.
The two areas mentioned by Hayden's group, he said, would not work. There is not enough forage and water in Coyote Canyon, and the Beauty Mountain area is too close to developed areas."The horses would most likely range out to private land or the [Anza-Borrego] state park," he said. What's more, Kalish said, the horses of Ramona have been adopted, which erases the BLM's responsibility. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken a similar hands-off attitude toward Filaree and the other Coyote Canyon heritage horses.
Hayden's group disagrees with both agencies' interpretation of their duties under federal law meant to protect wild horses. Filaree's long-ago relatives were there when Father Junipero Serra built his mission in San Diego in 1769 and when the Indians staged a massacre near Warner Hot Springs in 1850.
Some of the horses were herded by the Indians into Coyote Canyon on the edge of Anza-Borrego Desert. The horses were not discovered there by the Bureau of Land Management until 1974. A study by UC Davis veterinarians in 2003 concluded that the herd was malnourished and on the verge of death. The horses were declared feral and invasive and a danger to native species.
Using helicopters, wranglers hired by the BLM rounded up the last 29 of the horses and trucked them to a sanctuary in South Dakota.The 2003 roundup, which caused a number of pregnant mares to lose their foals, mobilized Hayden and other horse-lovers in the county's backcountry into action.
"I'm just an old cowgirl from Idaho," said Hayden, 69, as Filaree and a "watch-burro" named Brigette Berdu approached.
Hayden and others were able to rescue four stallions, including Anza. In 2009, Hayden's group persuaded the BLM to ship to a private ranch at Borrego Springs 14 mares from a herd in southern Utah that shares the same bloodline as the Coyote Canyon horses. Among that group was Fiera. A year ago the horses were transferred to Ramona, on private land already set aside for a population of burrowing owls.
The county Board of Supervisors in June endorsed a resolution urging the Bureau of Land Management to devise a plan to relocate the Coyote Canyon horses to federal land under the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act.
Not as large as the thoroughbreds at Del Mar, or as dramatic in their galloping as the famous mustang, the Coyote Canyon horses have what horse-lovers call a square conformation. The most common colors are chestnut brown, red dun and black roan. In the pasture are 17 mares and three foals, with one more foal on the way. Neighbors watch over the herd for any intruders. If the neighbors are too busy, Brigette Berdu is on duty. She trails the herd and watches for any visitors who slip beneath the barbed wire. "She's not going to let anything happen to 'her' horses," Hayden said. "She knows how important they are."
Former Gov. Bill Richardson and U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack
Former Gov. Bill Richardson Thursday met in Washington D.C with meet with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and urge him to stop the reopening of horse slaughterhouses, but didn’t come back with the response he hoped to hear.
“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s willingness to meet with me and listen to the concerns of our foundation and those of others who adamantly oppose horse slaughter,” Richardson said in a news release. “Secretary Vilsack made it clear
to me that he opposes horse slaughter, but said he has to follow federal rules.”
Richardson suggested that the USDA immediately conduct a complete review of its rule making procedures regarding horse slaughter and that it block any horse slaughterhouse from reopening until that review is completed. The meeting was part of an effort made to prevent the opening of a horse slaughterhouse near Roswell. “We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s willingness to listen to our suggestions, and we hope that today’s meeting will be an important milestone in the fight against horse slaughter.”
“I impressed on him the urgency of the matter as the welfare of these animals and the impact to the environment hangs in the balance,” Richardson added.
Richardson’s trip was on behalf of The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, an animal protection foundation he recently founded with actor Robert Redford. Earlier in the week the Foundation announced its first action was joining a federal lawsuit
against the USDA that seeks to block horse slaughter.
Brian Egolf, attorney for the foundation, said:”The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife believes, as the vast majority of Americans do, that horse slaughter has no place in our country.
EQUINE PROTECTION FUND PASSES MILESTONE OF 400 EQUINES ASSISTED; FUND CONTINUES TO BE LEADER IN PROVIDING HUMANE OPTIONS FOR HORSES
Source: New Mexico Community Foundation
ALBUQUERQUE- As of mid-July 2013, the New Mexico Equine Protection Fund (Equine Fund) has brought relief to over 400 equines (horses, donkeys, and mules) across New Mexico via the Equine Fund’s humane programs, the first such efforts available statewide.
“When we started the Equine Fund in 2009, the needs of homeless and abused horses were being addressed only by a handful of struggling equine shelters doing the best they could. Other humane options were not available for many equines and the people who care about them,” said Phil Carter, Equine Campaign Manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM), which administers the Equine Fund in partnership with the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF). “The Equine Fund was designed to remove barriers to doing the right thing for more of our state’s horses.”
“Now more than ever, the Equine Protection Fund is crucial to our state, and we’re very pleased that, through the generosity of many supporters, the Fund has directly reduced the suffering of over 400 horses, donkeys, and mules,” said Jenny Parks, President and CEO of New Mexico Community Foundation.
The Equine Fund’s programs include Emergency Feed Assistance, which provides temporary financial support for horse owners in purchasing horse feed. The Equine Fund also provides assistance with veterinary care for needy equines, including Gelding Assistance vouchers to prevent unwanted breeding, humane euthanasia for suffering animals via the Trail’s End program, and aid with emergency veterinary care for equines seized by or relinquished to law enforcement agencies.
At just under $70,000 spent on all assistance programs to date, the Equine Fund continues to demonstrate that, with strategic thinking, humane treatment of New Mexico’s equines is not unattainable, least of all on a financial level. Emergency Feed Assistance maintains its historical average of less than $100 per animal per month while ensuring nutrition in crises, while the veterinary care programs average from $93 to $178 per equine.
“These agencies and facilities are tasked with responding to abuse of horses. By providing support for gelding, euthanasia, and other necessary care, we can help ensure the prompt seizure, treatment, rehabilitation an adoption of second-chance animals.”
APNM is also pleased to announce the hiring of our new Equine Development Officer, Victoria Kanof. A position made possible by a generous grant from the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), the Development Officer will be working to promote the Equine Protection Fund’s vital activities across the state and in all sectors of the horse community and to grow our programs and endowment for humane care of equines.
For more information on the Equine Protection Fund, including ways to donate, visit helpourhorses.org or contact Phil Carter at
Source: Food Product Design by Josh Long
ALBUQUERQUE—A lawsuit that challenges the revival of horse slaughter in the United States illustrates the divisiveness of the practice even among the people who have considered the animals sacred for centuries: Native Americans.
The Chief of the Minikoju Band of the Cheyenne River Tribe Lakota Indians—Chief David Bald Eagle—is among the plaintiffs who are seeking to enjoin the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from authorizing the resumption of horse slaughter for human consumption after a years-long hiatus.
USDA officials have been accused of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by neglecting to prepare an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment before granting inspection to horse slaughter plants and implementing a residue testing program for the animals.
Horse slaughter is considered vile by at least some animal-rights organizations and Americans, including natives with roots that long predate the U.S. government in charge of overseeing the practice.
"The Lakota and Chief David Bald Eagle believe that abusing a horse, including slaughtering a horse for human consumption, will bring misfortune or death to the abuser," according to the 40-page lawsuit that was filed in New Mexico federal court. "The Lakota and Chief David Bald Eagle also believe that allowing the slaughter of horses on Native American land will not benefit the tribal nations, but instead will be an opportunity for more control by the non-native government and outside special interests."
Sandy Schaefer, a member of the Sioux tribe, is another plaintiff in the case. She resides in Roswell, N.M., where Valley Meat Company LLC plans to slaughter horses after USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service last month issued a "Grant of Inspection" to the business. According to the lawsuit, Schaefer considers horse slaughter "greedy, disrespectful and contrary to the Native Americans' relationship with its brother nation, the horse nation."
But individuals who support horse slaughter maintain that many horses are unwanted in America, including on Indian reservations, and that an overpopulation causes damage to the lands. James Stephenson, who is employed as a big game biologist by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in Washington, cites an overpopulation of wild/feral horses on the 1.3 million acres of land his employer manages and owns.
Concluded Stephenson: "I believe it is critical to allow horse slaughter again in the United States because without it, the Yakama Nation is suffering massive economic and environmental damage."
In 2007, Congress ended horse slaughter for human consumption. Four years later, lawmakers appropriated funding for inspection of horse slaughter facilities. At least six applications have been submitted to USDA to resume this activity. The Obama Administration has asked Congress to reinstate the ban. Although lawmakers haven't done so, the appropriations
committees in the House and Senate have voted to eliminate funds for inspection of horse slaughter facilities.
Last month, a committee of the 69-year-old National Congress of American Indians adopted a resolution, which supported the resumption of horse slaughter facilities and opposed legislation that is aimed to ban such activity. The resolution states, in part: "Whereas, the Economic Development/Natural Resources committee agrees that the horse market represents the only economically viable means of reducing the size of feral herds damaging reservation environments and would further assist
reservation horse producers who need to sustain their livestock operations, in the productive utilization of tribal and allotted lands".
The emotional debate over horse slaughter is likely to play out during an Aug. 2 hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque, who will hear plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. USDA hasn't yet filed an
answer to the lawsuit, according to Bruce Wagman, a lawyer representing some of the animal-rights organizations who are named plaintiffs. USDA referred inquires to the U.S. Department of Justice, which didn't immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Front Range Equine Rescue and Horses for Life Foundation are among the
organizations that have sued USDA officials.
A. Blair Dunn, a lawyer in Albuquerque representing Valley Meat, said: "Valley thinks it is extremely disappointing that organizations such as HSUS do virtually nothing to actually care for horses and instead focus on spending money on lawsuits
against law abiding businesses and waste tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits against the government." Valley Meat refutes claims that the proposed facilities will threaten the environment.
"The true motivations of plaintiffs are not to protect the environment, or out of concern for human health," Dunn wrote in court documents, "but are to destroy the industry thru delay or attempting to delay long enough on the hope that Congress will again change the law."
Valley Meat faces increasing opposition to its plans from government agencies in New Mexico. Gary King, the Attorney General of New Mexico, has sought to intervene in the lawsuit to halt the Roswell plant from slaughtering equines. He previously raised concerns that animals destined for the slaughterhouse are treated with drugs that are unsafe for human consumption.
In another setback to the business, the New Mexico Environment Department announced it would hold a public hearing on Valley Meat's request to "discharge agricultural wastewater into surface impoundments in Chaves County, New Mexico." The state agency said it had reviewed more than 450 public comments, illustrating widespread interest in Valley Meat's plans to slaughter horses.
Dunn told The Associated Press the lack of a permit would not prevent the plant from opening as planned on Aug. 5.
The overheated debate between the federal government and animal advocates over the removal of wild mustangs from the Western range ticked a few degrees higher after the Bureau of Land Management announced plans to take fewer horses from the land this summer.
Even though its holding capacity for captured wild horses has nearly reached its limit at 50,000 animals nationwide, the agency said last week that it would remove 1,300 horses in the coming months, many of which might otherwise die from lack of food and water.
Animal advocates say 1,300 horses is still too many, and question the BLM’s rationale for the removals.
Nine of the BLM's 16 summer roundups will be conducted in Nevada, home to roughly half of the estimated 37,000 free-roaming wild horses and burros in the West. The agency plans to remove 855 wild horses and burros in Nevada, 140 in
Oregon, 105 in Arizona, 65 in New Mexico, 50 in Colorado and 25 in Idaho, the agency said in a news release.
On Tuesday, the agency said it would relocate 50 wild horses threatened by drought from an area two hours north of Las Vegas. BLM officials said “it is anticipated that as an act of mercy, some animals with a poor prognosis for survival may need to be humanely euthanized to end their suffering.”
“The drought conditons are so severe we’re going to see die-offs,” BLM spokesman Tom Gorey told the Los Angeles Times.
The BLM has been closely monitoring drought conditions and since early July has been supplementing the natural water seeps, filling tubs and troughs with water and providing hay to the horses. Unfortunately, these animals are extremely skittish and will not drink from the man-made containers. Even with the extra water, the seeps do not provide enough water to sustain them, Gorney said.
“It’s contrary to the cliche -- we’re bringing the water to the horse, but the animals still won’t drink it,” he told The Times. “Horses will die. It’s not going to be pretty.”
The BLM has been under fire for what many have called its failing policies toward wild horses, who have been blamed for range damage despite the fact that their numbers are heavily overshadowed by grazing domestic cattle. An independent scientific review of the agency’s horse roundups, released in May, recommended that the government invest in widespread fertility control of the mustangs and let nature cull any excess herds instead of spending millions to house them in overflowing holding pens.
The 14-member panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council and Management concluded BLM's removal of nearly 100,000 horses from the Western range over the last decade is probably having the opposite effect of its intention to ease ecological damage and reduce overpopulated herds.
In June, 30 member os the House of Representatives urged new U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to reform the government's wild horse management program and its spiraling budget, which is dominated by the high cost of corralling and
removing the animals from the range.
For the 2013 fiscal year, which ends in September, the BLM plans to remove 4,800 mustangs from the range, compared with 8,255 in the last fiscal year, Gorey said, adding that the reduction is due to overstocked corrals.
In a statement, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign coalition criticized the BLM's plans. "The BLM is galloping ahead with rounding up more wild horses, despite the high cost to taxpayers and animals as well as the findings of an independent scientific review, which recommends against continued roundups," said coalition spokeswoman Suzanne Roy. "The agency still has not gotten the message that the removal of wild horses from our Western public lands is inhumane, unsustainable, unscientific, and must come to an end.”
Six of the Nevada roundups will employ contract helicopters to drive the animals to pens, while the rest of the operations will use bait and water to trap them in corrals.
Sally Summers, founder of the Reno-based group Horse Power, which has called for a stop to the capturing of horses and burros, said the BLM’s planned areas for its water traps is the same area that is at the center of a lawsuit by advocates for better monitoring access of helicopter roundups.
“They’re doing water traps because they knew we won’t have access to monitor what they’re doing,” Summers told The Times. “Do they make sure there is enough water in those traps? Do they check them enough times a day to collect horses out in the middle of the heat? We won’t know, because they won’t let us near those traps to watch their tactics.” She added: "The BLM is tired of people picking it apart. They want to do what they do in secrecy.”
Gorey lashed back at critics. “The opponents of our horse gathers face a daunting question of ethics,” he told The Times. "On one hand, they imply that if Mother Nature kills off the horses from thirst or starvation, that’s OK. But if we intervene to save these horses, that’s unacceptable.”
“Where is the reasoning in that argument. I don’t see it.”
New Mexico Environment Department Issues Determination Of Substantial Public Interest And Public Hearing On Valley Meat Company Permit For Horse Slaughter Operations
(Santa Fe, NM) - On July 17, 2013, the New Mexico Environment Department took administrative action on Ground Water Discharge Permit DP-236 for Valley Meat Company, LLC, (Valley Meat).
The Environment Department determined the draft permit issued on May 31, 2013 will require a public hearing. The permit request by Valley Meat seeks approval to discharge agricultural wastewater into surface impoundments in Chaves County, New Mexico.
A public hearing will ensure that all interested parties will have an opportunity to state their position on the permit. Currently, the Environment Department is working to set a date for the public hearing. The Environment Department will announce the date(s), location, and time of the public hearing once Valley Meat responds to dates proposed by the Environment Department.
Before making this determination, the department reviewed over 450 public comments submitted during the 30-day public comment period, which began May 31, 2013 and ended July 1, 2013. Because of the public response, and the substance
of the comments received, Secretary-Designate Ryan Flynn determined the permit has generated significant public interest warranting a public hearing. This determination, authorized by regulation to be made by the Secretary of the Environment Department, will provide the opportunity for more extensive participation by the public.
"Horses are an important part of our state’s history and of our identity as westerners. The Environment Department has a duty to provide the public with an opportunity to express their views on this important issue before a final decision on the permit is made," said NMED
Secretary-Designate Ryan Flynn. "The Environment Department will ensure the regulatory process is transparent and fair to all of the interested parties." The permit request has received widespread media exposure related to the nature of the proposed facility operations, primarily that of equine slaughter and processing.
PLEASE NOTE: The permit applies strictly to discharge of agricultural wastewater into surface impoundments in Chaves County, New Mexico.
For more information, call NMED Communications Director Jim Winchester at (505) 231-8800 or the visit the Department’s website at www.nmenv.state.nm.us.
>>> Click Here for pdf of Press Release
The battle over the first horsemeat processing plant in the U.S. in seven years is heating up, with a court hearing in Albuquerque fast approaching.
The facility in Roswell is scheduled to open in two weeks but in the latest development, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has joined a lawsuit trying to stop the slaughterhouse from opening its doors — something a lawyer for the plant dismissed as “political grandstanding.”
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reluctantly granted approval to the Valley Meat Co. to convert its cattle facility into a horse processing plant, prompting a number of animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States to seek a federal court injunction to keep the plant from opening.
Attorney General King’s filed a motion last Friday saying the state wants to ensure that “commercial operations within its borders are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.” Last month in a legal analysis, King said “state law does not allow for production of meat that is chemically tainted under federal regulations.” Part of the argument by opponents claims that the meat may contain chemicals that could harm people who eat it.
“Legally, the AG’s office is in left field,” Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat Co., told New Mexico Watchdog on Monday (July 22). “It’s just not the threat he’s purporting it to be. This is a publicity stunt. It has to do with run for governor. Coming from his agricultural background, he should know better. There is not an issue with food safety.”
A spokesman for King said he had no comment about Dunn’s remarks but in a news release, King cited a study saying the Food and Drug Administration that “indicates a serious gap in food safety and constitutes a significant public health risk.”
The New Mexico Environment Department added another roadblock for Valley Meat Co. late Monday by declining a request to renew the firm’s wastewater discharge permit. The NMED says it won’t renew the permit without a public hearing, noting it has received more than 450 comments against letting the former cattle slaughterhouse open as a horse slaughter plant. Valley Meat Co. attorney Blair Dunn cried foul, saying the agency was unfairly targeting a small family-owned business. He says the plant can still open, but would have to haul its own waste.
The processing plant has ignited passions and divided ranchers, farmers, animal lovers and everyday citizens in New Mexico.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has opposed it, saying that “horses are a part of our culture.” On Monday (July 22), former Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, along with actor Robert Redford, announced the formation of a nonprofit that is joining the lawsuit against the facility. Richardson said he’d do “whatever it takes to stop the return of horse slaughterhouses in this country and, in particular, my own state.”
Supporters of the plant say that given the rising cost of hay, horses have been abandoned and left to starve in the Southwest and maintain it’s better to have unwanted and dying horses killed in a federally-inspected facility than have them sent to plants in places like Mexico, where they often meet gruesome deaths in unsanitary conditions.
“Which would you rather do, put them down in a humane fashion or let them starve to death,” Dunn said.
“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.”
The plant is scheduled to open on Aug. 5 but the hearing in federal court about the injunction is set for Aug. 2 in Albuquerque before Judge M. Christina Armijo. Since giving the Roswell plant the OK, the USDA also recently granted approval for a horse slaughter facility in Iowa and is poised to approve one in Missouri.
Dunn says he’ll ask for $25 million at the Aug. 2 hearing, as bond ”to cover potential lost revenue” to the facilities should they be delayed in opening for business.
How did the situation arise?
Back in 2006, a prohibition was placed in the U.S. preventing horse slaughter and the last plant was closed in 2007. But in 2011, Congress quietly removed the rider enforcing the ban from an omnibus spending act.
Attorneys for Valley Meat took the USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service to court and forced their hand. Earlier this
year, the USDA said it “is legally required to issue a grant of inspection” even though the Obama administration has also come out against lifting the ban.
“Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law,” USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe told Associated Press June 28.