AG’s Request for TRO Granted; In Effect Until Jan. 3 Hearing
(SANTA FE)---New Mexico Attorney General Gary King applauds the efforts of his office as they together continue working to stop Valley Meats from beginning commercial horse slaughter operations in Roswell, New Mexico.
At AG King’s request, First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson has issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that stops Valley Meats from opening as they planned January 1, 2014.
Attorney General King sought the TRO because Valley Meat had stated it would begin operating even though it lacked the required regulatory approval. With the newly scheduled hearing, the court can now more fully consider the dangers posed by commercial horse slaughter and Valley Meat’s long history of non-compliance with existing laws.
The hearing on AG King’s request for a longer-term injunction is January 3, 2014 in the First Judicial District courthouse in Santa Fe.
The filed TRO is available on the AG’s web site, www.nmag.gov, under news releases.
On December 19, Attorney General King filed a lawsuit against Valley Meat Company, its owner and two related companies that want to bring commercial horse slaughter to New Mexico. Commercial horse slaughter is a new, untested enterprise that poses health and environmental risks to New Mexicans. Horses in America are not raised to be eaten, and are widely administered drugs that are forbidden for use in food animals.
NMAGO NEWS RELEASE
Attorney General Gary K. King
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
CONTACT: Phil Sisneros 505-222-9174 or Lynn Southard 505-222-9048
A state district judge on Monday issued a temporary restraining order to prevent a Roswell horse slaughterhouse from opening this week before a hearing scheduled for Friday. The company previously said it planned to open on Jan. 1.
Valley Meat Co. attorney Blair Dunn said the company expected to wait to start operations until management has clarity on two remaining hurdles: the lawsuit filed by State Attorney General Gary King in the 1st Judicial District earlier this month and a wastewater discharge permit required by the state Environment Department.
Judge Matthew Wilson scheduled a hearing for Friday for Valley Meat to show cause for why the temporary restraining order “should not be extended or a preliminary injunction issued,” according to the order.
The potential opening of what would be New Mexico’s only horse-slaughtering facility has been at the heart of an emotional debate over how the state, and the nation, should handle unwanted horses. Currently, the U.S. exports tens of thousands of horses to Mexico and Canada each year, an unknown percentage destined for slaughter.
The Valley Meat plant previously was a beef slaughterhouse, but has been closed since March 2012.
In the lawsuit, King charged that Valley Meat has chronically failed to comply with state environmental and safety laws over the years, and sought a temporary restraining order, as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent the slaughterhouse from opening.
Dunn denies the allegations against Valley Meat, saying of King’s lawsuit, “Their legal claim is not substantiated.”
The attorney general filed his lawsuit after a federal appeals judge rescinded an injunction that had kept the slaughterhouse from opening as a separate lawsuit winds its way through the federal appeals system.
“Judge Wilson has only seen their side of the story so far,” Dunn said. “I expect that when this judge gets all the facts put in front of him, he will dismiss this one, too.”
Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos said while the company awaits the judge’s decisions, “We’re definitely moving forward getting ready to open.” He said he has contacted a dozen former employees who are waiting for the green light to return to the plant.
Besides the legal hurdles still ahead, the slaughterhouse requires a water discharge permit from the Environment Department before it can begin operations.
Dunn said the slaughterhouse is seeking a 60-day permit that would allow the company to “pump and haul” wastewater to a facility approved by the Environment Department. The temporary permit could be released as soon as the first week of January, he said, before the department makes a final ruling on the company’s water discharge permit request.
“We’re hoping to have it sorted out before then and open in the next couple of weeks,” Dunn said.
Environment spokesman Jim Winchester said the agency is preparing a transcript of a public hearing on the water discharge permit in October that will go to Secretary Ryan Flynn for final review. “He will look at the merits of the permit request and determine whether to issue the permit,” Winchester said in an email. “That’s not expected until February.”
Source: Albuquerque Journal News by Lauren Villagran
Horse-drawn carriages could soon be a thing of the past in New York City's Central Park after Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced plans to outlaw the popular tourist attraction once in office.
"We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period," de Blasio said at a news conference Monday, saying that the practice is inhumane.
"No tourist comes to New York City just to ride on a horse carriage," Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, an animal rights group, told CNN.
"Horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting," NYCLASS states on its website. "They constantly breathe exhaust while dodging dangerous traffic ... confined to the shafts of their carriage and their tiny stable stalls, with no access to green pastures."
Steven Malone, a horse-carriage driver since 1987, said that allegations of horse abuse are "ridiculous."
"These horses lead exceedingly great lives here," Malone told CNN. Malone said that horses would be sent to paddocks, where they would have less interaction and exercise and would be far less happy. Malone also disputed claims that horses are overworked, saying that all horses get at least five weeks of vacation time, and some get up to six months.
De Blasio and NYCLASS favor replacing the horse carriages with electric antique cars driven by the same carriage drivers, which would be more humane and still be appealing to tourists, de Blasio said.
"You can't create tradition. You can't create kids coming with smiles on their faces to pet the horses," Malone said. "You're not getting that with an electric car... Kids can't pet fenders."
De Blasio, who takes office January 1, has hired legal counsel who will deal with the legislative approach, he confirmed at the news conference.
Malone and his fellow horse-carriage drivers plan to fight back in court. The proposed law would have to be approved by the City Council before any horses are removed from New York City streets.
"We want to provide the same service that we've been providing since the park opened in 1858," Malone said.
Source: CNN by Allie Malloy
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top prosecutor filed a lawsuit Thursday in state district court in an attempt to block a planned horse slaughter plant from opening in less than two weeks.
The move by Attorney General Gary King comes after a federal appeals court rolled back a court order that had kept Valley Meat Co. from starting operations earlier this fall. Owner Rick De Los Santos has been making plans to open Jan. 1, and his attorney said Thursday that those plans haven't changed.
Attorney Blair Dunn called King's lawsuit frivolous and a waste of taxpayer money. Under state law, if a judge issues a restraining order or preliminary injunction, a security bond would have to be posted by the state while the legal challenge winds its way through the court. Dunn said that could cost New Mexico as much as $435,000 a month.
"As a New Mexican, as a taxpayer, I'm beyond offended and I think it's almost criminal what they're doing. They're wasting everybody's money," Dunn said.
King defended the lawsuit, saying Valley Meat stands to violate state laws related to food safety, water quality and unfair business practices.
"I believe that the operation of this plant in New Mexico is antithetical to the way we do business in New Mexico," King said. "We don't eat horses in New Mexico, and we think this is an inappropriate use of this plant."
Valley Meat and proposed plants in Missouri and Iowa have been the targets of animal protection groups trying to block the slaughtering of horses. Valley Meat began leading the effort to resume domestic horse slaughter two years ago after Congress lifted its ban on the practice. In August, as plants in the three states were preparing to open, The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups sued to contest the Department of Agriculture's permitting process.
A federal judge in Albuquerque issued a temporary restraining order, prompting the Iowa company to convert its operations to beef. U.S. District Judge Christine Armijo threw out the lawsuit in November, allowing all three companies to proceed.
The animal protection groups appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an emergency motion that again blocked the plants from opening. The appellate court lifted that order last week, saying the groups "failed to meet their burden for an injunction pending appeal."
Animal Protection of New Mexico and Front Range Equine Rescue were among the groups throwing their support behind King's lawsuit on Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, Valley Meat has a history of violating state and federal environmental and safety laws while operating as a beef slaughterhouse. The state says Valley Meat's failure to monitor and test water samples as part of its past discharge permits dates back decades. The company is also accused of disposing of carcasses illegally.
Dunn challenged the state's claims and accused King, a Democrat who is running for governor, of politicizing the case.
While it could be weeks before the state district court rules on King's request, Dunn said Valley Meat will continue to prepare for operations to begin. The company says it has multiple international contracts lined up.
Source: Huffington Post by Susan Montoya Bryan, AP
(ALBUQUERQUE)—Attorney General Gary King is suing the Valley Meat horse slaughter plant in Roswell to prevent the company from killing and butchering horses for food.
At a news conference this morning AG King announced that he has filed a lawsuit that asks for a temporary restraining order to stop the plant from opening. Valley Meat is reportedly planning to begin slaughtering horses for human food within two weeks.
“I took this action because horse slaughter presents a genuine risk to New Mexicans’ health and to our natural resources,” says Attorney General King. “Valley Meat Company’s record of violating the state’s laws regarding food, water quality, and unfair business practices, poses serious dangers to public health and safety, to the natural environment, and to the public’s use and enjoyment of public resources, namely groundwater and land.”
AG King reiterated that horses are administered scores of drugs that are banned for use with food animals and that are not approved for human use either. Many of these drugs have demonstrated harmful effects on humans, and others carry unknown risks. Because horses in America are not raised to be eaten, they are given these drugs without regard to whether their meat might be consumed later. In addition, horses lack medical records that would help regulators and consumers decide if their meat was safe.
The Attorney General says, “For these reasons, I concluded earlier this year that horse meat would likely constitute an ‘adulterated’ product under the New Mexico Food Act, and therefore would be prohibited.
AG King said he also initiated this lawsuit because Valley Meat, the plant that is on the verge of beginning commercial horse slaughter, has a very poor track record of compliance with environmental and safety laws, racking up literally thousands of violations over the years. The company has requested a state permit that is required before it can discharge wastewater, but has now stated publicly that it will begin operating on January 1, 2014, whether or not it receives the permit.
“Our environmental laws are on the books to protect precious natural resources, especially ground water. Companies that willfully ignore those laws need to be held to account before they cause serious damage to public health or our environment,” adds AG King. “Commercial horse slaughter is completely at odds with our traditions and our values as New Mexicans. It also poses a tangible risk to consumers and to our environment. I will continue to fight on behalf of the health and well-being of New Mexicans and the protection of our groundwater and other natural resources.”
Source: New Mexico Attorney General Office
CONTACT: Phil Sisneros 505-222-9174 or Lynn Southard 505-222-9048
Click here to view Court Filing [PDF]
Congressman Ed Whitfield defends interaction between his official actions and his wife’s lobbying.
Ethics experts said that the Whitfields could be violating House rules through their joint lobbying for legislation, although these experts cautioned that it isn’t a cut-and-dried case.
“If it were Boeing and they were doing this, it would be a really big deal,” said Melanie Sloan, head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. While Sloan applauded the Whitfields for disclosing their activities — something that has been one of the major problems in other ethics cases — she said the joint lobbying of members and staffers is troubling.
“I can’t see a flat-out ethics violation, but I can certainly see it creates an appearance problem, and it would seem like the better course would be for them not to be lobbying together; that seems inappropriate to me,” Sloan said.
Veteran ethics lawyer Stanley Brand said the activity does raise questions because lawmakers aren’t supposed to gain personal benefit from their official duties.
“It’s not that easy to get from those general standards to a violation,” Brand said. “There have been cases before where spouses have been registered lobbyists and their husbands or wives are on committees where those companies have interest and that’s never been enough to get you to a violation.”
Whitfield is hardly alone when it comes to lawmakers with relatives who lobby. Dozens of congressional relatives are registered lobbyists, and oftentimes, lawmakers with family ties on issues weigh in on legislative proposals. Congress cracked down on ethics reforms in 2007, banning spouses from lobbying a member’s personal office staff and the lawmaker. Other lawmakers whose relatives have lobbied include: the wife of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as a lobbyist at Kraft Foods and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), whose father — former Rep. Bud Shuster — served as a contract lobbyist.
Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle defended Harriman-Whitfield’s involvement pushing the horse legislation.
“I think sometimes when folks look at issues like this, they nitpick on it as a conflict of interest and I just want to say, No. 1, there is a real difference in working for a coal company or an oil company or any big business, pharmaceutical company and working for a nonprofit organization where there is no financial incentive to gain as an institution,” Pacelle said. “The track record of both Connie and Ed is deep involvement in animal welfare far preceding Connie’s involvement in the Humane Society. She came to the Humane Society because she was already very, very involved on these issues personally.”
Further, Pacelle said that he meets with Whitfield to discuss legislative issues, not Harriman-Whitfield. Pacelle said he didn’t see anything wrong with Whitfield and his wife personally lobbying his colleagues together on the issue of animal cruelty.
“It’d be a shame if our society didn’t allow spouses to advocate for ending poverty in the world, or advancing other core values of our society. I’m not sure what she’s supposed to do, just be mute on these issues with his colleagues,” Pacelle said.
Harriman-Whitfield has a history of advocating against animal cruelty long before joining the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2007. As assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior under President George H.W. Bush, Harriman-Whitfield is credited with playing a major role in instituting the U.S. and worldwide ban on the elephant ivory trade.
Harriman-Whitfield now serves as senior policy adviser for the Humane Society Legislative Fund and has been engaged in federal lobbying since early 2011. During this two-year period, the HSLF spent $90,000 on in-house lobbying activities, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports. An outside lobbying firm billed the organization an additional $60,000 so far this year, according to another report.
Whitfield’s annual financial disclosure report does not include his wife’s compensation from the Humane Society.
For his part, Whitfield said his standing with the Humane Society hasn’t always been good, although he provided POLITICO with a long list of legislation he has offered dealing with animal welfare during his time in Congress.
“Sometimes I’ve had a good record with them and sometimes I have not had a good record with them, but I’ve been involved in a multitude of issues, so from my perspective there absolutely is no violation of ethics laws and if someone thinks there is they can file a complaint,” Whitfield said, noting that he has a 62 percent rating in the group’s 2013 midterm score card.
Source: Politico by John Bresnahan and Anna Palmer
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) made revisions to Directive 6130.1, the "Ante-mortem, Postmortem Inspection of Equines and Documentation of Inspection Tasks", which was originally released on June 28, 2013.
The Directive provides instructions to inspection program personnel (IPP) on how to perform ante-mortem inspection of equines before slaughter and post-mortem inspection of equine carcasses and parts after slaughter.
It also instructs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Public Health Veterinarians (PHVs) making ante-mortem and post-mortem dispositions of equines how to perform residue testing, verify humane handling, verify marking of inspected equine products, and document results using the Public Health Inspection System (PHIS).
On December 18, 2013, FSIS reissued Directive 6130.1 Revision 1, to include minor changes to the instructions to IPP how to record equine in the PHIS plant profile. FSIS is also making other changes to reflect the implementation of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)-Direct and to clarify instructions concerning increased sampling for “repeat violators.”
A. The Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) provides that there is to be an inspection of horses and other equines, among other species, to assess whether the carcasses of these animals are not adulterated, can be passed for human consumption, and are eligible to bear the mark of inspection (21 U.S.C. 604).
B. The FMIA requires that the slaughter or preparation of products of equines be conducted under inspection. FSIS regulations require that horse slaughter and preparation of products of equines be done in establishments that are separate from any establishment in which cattle, sheep, swine, or goats are slaughtered or their products prepared (9 CFR 305.2 (b)).
C. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 and 9 CFR Part 313 require that all livestock, including horses, slaughtered under inspection be handled humanely. Equines must be rendered insensible to pain (i.e. unconscious) before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.
"WE NEED the tonic of wildness." -- 42 years ago this week, President Richard M. Nixon invoked these famous words of Henry David Thoreau when signing the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
Noting that he took "special pleasure" in "signing strong legislation to protect these noble animals," the President highlighted that wild horses and burros deserve protection as "an ecological right -- as anyone knows who has ever stood awed at the indomitable spirit and sheer energy of a mustang running free."
Four decades later, the promise of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act remains tragically unfulfilled. In 1971, President Nixon observed that "demands of the market for [horses'] processed products, competition for forage used by domestic livestock" and other commercial forces had pushed wild horses and burros to the brink of extinction.
Velma Johnston, AKA Wild Horse Annie, is largely credited with generating the grassroots advocacy that secured the Act's passage. At the time, she called out the "powerful forces" aligned against wild horses and burros, including the "domestic livestock industry... and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management -- custodian of the public lands -- which looked upon the commercial harvesting of the animals as an expedient means of range clearance to make more forage potential available to the vested interest groups...."
Four decades later, these vested interests remain aligned against the mustangs. They have turned the law intended to protect these iconic animals on its head, and are the driving force behind the massive roundup and removal of wild horses and burros from our Western public lands.
The result is a corrupt and devastating federal program that today stockpiles more wild horses in captivity than remain free on the range.
If this trajectory continues, few, if any, truly wild, free-roaming horses will exist in the coming decades. Half of all lands designated as wild horse and burro habitat have been eliminated over the past four decades, and administration after administration has allowed the systematic removal and elimination of wild horses and burros from our public lands in the West.
In signing the Act, President Nixon recognized the "outpouring of concern for the preservation of wild horses and burros on our Western ranges." He saluted the "determined young defenders of the wild horse who have helped give impetus to this effort."
Today, we must again reignite that outpouring of public concern as the only way to counter the forces that to continue to threaten the very existence of wild horses and burros in our nation. With 50,000 wild horses stockpiled in holding facilities, and the horse slaughter industry poised to resume in the U.S., the stakes could not be higher.
Take the first step in fighting back by visiting StopTheRoundups.com and adding your name to the growing grassroots movement to Keep Wild Horses Wild.
When people speak, change can happen.
Source: The Huffington Post by Suzanne Roy
Follow Suzanne on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FreeWildHorses
Attorney, Bruce Wagman, discusses Horse Slaughter: The status of the current lawsuit against the USDA, initiatives at the state/local levels, and the ongoing commitment of Front Range Equine Rescue to stop the slaughtering of American horses.
Source: Mike Jaxson, Soundcloud
Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Leads the Fight Nationwide to Prevent Horse Slaughter and Protect the Public
LARKSPUR, Colo., December 16, 2013 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education, has taken measures to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption in both New Mexico and Missouri.
Late last week, FRER filed a 90-page brief in New Mexico explaining that state law mandates Valley Meat in Roswell, N.M. be rejected in its quest to start slaughtering horses for meat.
In a separate action, FRER has intervened in a Missouri proceeding in which a Gallatin, Mo.-based slaughterhouse there is trying to begin slaughtering horse for human consumption, despite clear environmental dangers and likely toxic deposits that would result from the practice.
FRER was the first group to discover that Valley Meat was applying to slaughter American horses, and has since worked to expose the company’s decades-long record of violating environmental and animal welfare requirements. Over the course of two decades, Valley Meat has accumulated more than 5000 violations of state environmental laws designed to protect groundwater, the environment, rivers and other waterways.
Among the most egregious of its misconduct, Valley Meat operated a cow slaughterhouse for nearly three years without any state approval to discharge water at all, thereby avoiding any oversight that might help monitor the damage that could be done. For years, Valley Meat illegally dumped and buried cow carcasses and pieces of dead animals, despite repeated requests from state regulators to cease and desist and clean up the mess. Last week FRER documented these violations, and hundreds of others, in a submission to the New Mexico Environment Department, to support its argument that Valley Meat’s application for a wastewater discharge permit should be denied.
FRER was the first to discover that in Missouri, Rains Natural Meats intended to begin slaughtering horses, and has teamed with other Missouri groups and individuals to prevent an environmental and potential human health catastrophe. FRER has collected objective testimony from veterinarians and horse trainers proving that virtually every American horse who goes to slaughter has been given drugs that render their meat illegal and unsafe. Such drugs present a recipe for disaster when the byproducts, blood and wastewater from horse slaughter end up in the environment. Because of FRER’s desire to protect the horses and the environment, it has now entered this battle to stop the pollution of Missouri waters.
“We intend to prevent the brutal practice of horse slaughter, which can never be done safely or humanely, and leads to degradation of the environment wherever it takes place,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER. “With the support of other like-minded people, we can keep the fight going and protect hundreds of thousands of horses.”
• More than 100,000 American horses are exported for slaughter each year.
• The slaughter pipeline is well documented as horribly cruel, with many of the horses suffering immensely during transport and the horrific attempts to render them unconscious.
• The USDA has documented the abuse and misery horses suffer at U.S. slaughterhouses.
• Virtually all the horses used for meat spend most of their lives as work, competition or sport horses, companion animals, or wild horses, and are not raised or regulated as food animals.
• During their lives, horses are given a constant regimen of drugs and other substances which are either illegal for food animals, or are potentially dangerous to people who eat them.
FRER is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abandoned and abused horses, and the elimination of American horse slaughter for human consumption. For two full years, FRER has been leading the national charge in preventing the slaughter of American horses for human food. It intends to continue its efforts until the practice is permanently outlawed.
About Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER)
Front Range Equine Rescue is a 501c3 nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education. Since 1997, FRER has assisted thousands of horses through its rescue and educational programs. Many of FRER’s rescued horses are obtained directly from livestock auctions and feed lots, which without FRER’s intervention would have shipped to slaughter.