ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The owners of a Roswell company mired in legal disputes over its attempts to resume domestic horse slaughter have notified New Mexico Attorney General Gary King they intend to sue his office for slander, harassment, conspiracy and abuse of process.
Valley Meat Co. attorney Blair Dunn Monday sent letters to the state risk management division, giving the required 30-day notice of its planned legal filing.
King has filed a lawsuit that has blocked Valley's planned opening this month, alleging the horse slaughter plant would violate state environmental and food safety laws.
Dunn contends the state lacks jurisdiction over the federally regulated plant.
A federal lawsuit brought by animal protection groups was thrown out last year, and is currently on appeal. After the appellate court last month lifted an order blocking Valley and a plant in Missouri from opening, citing the plaintiffs' inability to show a likelihood to prevail, King filed the state suit. A Santa Fe judge has issued another temporary order putting the business on hold until a hearing next week.
Dunn says King is conspiring with the animal protection groups, the Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue, to block a lawful business with a frivolous lawsuit to further his gubernatorial bid.
"They are trying to drive Valley out of business," Dunn said. "They don't agree with the lawful business so instead of changing the law they decided they will try to destroy Valley. HSUS and Front Range have stated their goal is to drive Valley out of business."
Dunn has also accused King's spokesman, Phil Sisneros, of making defamatory statements about him and questioning his legal capabilities.
Sisneros did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
Valley Meat and companies in Missouri and Iowa last year won federal permits to become the first horse slaughterhouses to operate since Congress effectively banned the practice by cutting funding for inspections at plants in 2006. The last of the domestic plants closed in 2007. Congress in 2011 reinstated the funding.
Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santos has led the effort to force the Department of Agriculture to permit the horse slaughter plants, sparking an emotional, national debate on whether horses are livestock or companion animals.
Animal protection groups argue the practice is barbaric.
Proponents argue it is better to slaughter unwanted horses domestically than have them shipped thousands of miles to Canada or less humane facilities in Mexico.
The Iowa plant switched to cattle after the federal lawsuit blocked the plants from opening in August. Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Mo., had, like Valley, hoped to open this month. But it is currently waiting for state approval of a wastewater permit.
Rains Vice President David Rains said politics is also to blame for the delays in Missouri.
Source: AP by Jeri Clausing
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse, a hopeful sign for equines in New Mexico, says Debbie Coburn. She and her husband, Terry Coburn, have run Four Corners Equine Rescue for the last 10 years at their ranch home just outside Aztec. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and rehabilitating abandoned, abused and neglected horses. The organization also takes in and care for wild and feral horses. The couple currently have 62 horses at their sprawling facility in Flora Vista, south of the Old Aztec Highway.
Last year, the Coburns took in 30 horses -- "17 as wild as March hares," Debbie Coburn said. "It was like the year of the wild horse, we had so many come in or picked up," she said.
She said wild and feral horses can take twice as long as domesticated horses to be handleable and ready for adoption, doubling the expense and effort each of those horses require. Worse, according to Debbie Coburn, is that those horses face higher slaughter rates when they wind up at sale barns or at public auctions.
"What they call loose horses at a sale barn, public auction -- the chances of anyone taking them home is like .000000001 percent," she said. "No, they end up slaughtered. They sell them to kill buyers. The public auction is whoever bids the most."
The greatest obstacle, as Debbie Coburn sees it, is the reality that many horses are sent to slaughter each year, often out of convenience, indifference or cultural views that see the horses as possessions. With added political pressure and greater awareness, she is hopeful that change is afoot.
"The more Americans -- members of the public -- become aware of what's happening (with slaughter practices), the more the resistance to horse slaughter grows, and I think we're closer now than we ever have been to changing the culture of horse ownership," Debbie Coburn said. "I feel like we're making positive change. It's changed."
She points to a new law she championed to include a donation box on state personal tax forms to allow taxpayers to check off a donation to the horse shelter rescue fund. The state's Livestock Board would oversee the distribution of money to help horse shelters like the Coburns'. Debbie Coburn testified in support of the law at last year's legislative session in Santa Fe.
"It was organized chaos, so busy, so many committees I visited," she said. "That was my debut as a citizen lobbyist. But the governor (Susana Martinez) signed the bill. Things like this represent positive, incremental steps in the right direction."
The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, an organization launched by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and activist actor Robert Redford, has jumped in to fight horse slaughter. Debbie Coburn said her organization received a $1,500 donation from the foundation in November.
Another sign of change is in an upcoming meeting Debbie Coburn has secured with Ray Baca, executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board. Highest on her list of outcomes from the meeting is a greater understanding between the board and state rescues. The goal, she said, would be that board officials call rescues before allowing the horses to be taken to a sale barn and sold at public auction.
"We're supposed to meet with Baca to start forging a new relationship," she said. "We've been trying for a while. The first time I approached him, he said, 'No.' The fact that the (six) rescues (in the state) have bonded together, he's been more inclined to listen. It's the old guard, but the hope for change is there. Bit by bit."
Baca's board is still stinging after an investigative article in the Albuquerque Journal discovered that Baca signed a purchase order to place four abused horses with Southwest Livestock Auction, a feedlot in Los Lunas, in September. The feedlot's owner, Dennis Chavez, pleaded guilty in November to animal cruelty after four severely emaciated and dying horses were documented on his property. As part of a settlement agreement in the case, Debbie Coburn and two other state rescues received $5,000 last month.
"These rescues have saved a lot of horses," said Gary Mora, an area supervisor with the state's Livestock Board. "We have delivered horses (to Four Corners Equine Rescue). (Coburn) has picked up horses. She will attempt to help, but that is not always possible."
Mora, who has been with the board for 17 years, believes the board is doing all it can to place horses, despite a small budget, limited staff and no place of its own to hold horses indefinitely.
"We are faced with a problem with unwanted, abandoned horses. The economy didn't help," Mora said. "We can't just give these horses away. We have to follow the estray process, because they're not the property of the state. We hold onto them for as long as possible, and, most of the time, we're successful to adopt them out to private individuals or to rescues, but down the road we're going to run out of options. We don't have a facility to hold horses. After that, according to statute, we're required to sell them at public auction."
All of New Mexico's horse rescue groups, including Four Corners Equine Rescue, have banded together to form the New Mexico Equine Rescue Alliance, whose mission is to take all horses from the state's Livestock Board.
"This needs to stop," Debbie Coburn said. "We're willing to help. I'm not trying to pull their (agencies like the Livestock Board) wisdom teeth without sedation. We're trying to get along and make this a safer process for the horses. That's the point, but I am encouraged."
Source: The Daily Times by James Fenton
A state judge has extended for another 10 days his order blocking the planned opening of a horse slaughterhouse in Roswell.
State District Judge Matthew Wilson on Friday ordered that the ban remain in place and scheduled a Jan. 13 hearing in the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Gary King, who claims that Valley Meat Co. is poised to violate state laws on water quality and food and consumer safety.
Dunn also called it a “politically driven issue,” noting that King, a Democrat running for governor, is promoting his opposition to the slaughterhouse on his campaign website.
Valley Meat’s operation would be the only horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico, although Dunn told the judge it wouldn’t be the first: He said the Mescalero Apache tribe had a commercial horse slaughter operation until the 1980s and that a slaughterhouse is not “some new, horrible environmental threat.”
But Biernoff said that provided little comfort because “Valley Meat is a serial violator of environmental laws.” The plant was a beef slaughterhouse before it closed in March 2012. Biernoff also argued that horses are widely administered drugs that are not approved for use by humans and are specifically banned for human consumption, making Valley Meat’s product – from horses of unknown origin – potentially unsafe.
“The meat is safe. It’s not going to harm anyone,” De Los Santos said after the hearing. He said horse meat is routinely eaten in some other countries and there had been no reports of deaths from it.
Wilson acknowledged the arguments on both sides: that the slaughterhouse could result in harm to the food supply and the environment, and that preventing its opening could create economic hardship. He said the matter should be “properly vetted” and set aside an entire day for testimony on Jan. 13.
Source: Albuquerque Journal by Deborah Baker
Tomorrow, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King will be back in court seeking to block the opening of a horse slaughter plant in his state because of unresolved questions about waste disposal and unsafe chemicals in the meat. We hope he prevails. Attorney General King—joined by The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue—made similar arguments in the federal courts, which have produced a series of red and green lights for horse slaughter plant proponents over the last five months. Both King, as the state’s top law enforcement official, and the state’s Republican governor, Susanna Martinez, oppose the opening of a horse slaughter plant, so the state has hardly rolled out the welcome mat for the would-be horse butcherers and traders.
Taking a step back from the legal wrangles in the state and federal courts, I am amazed that the people behind horse slaughter continue to proceed with their thoroughly unpopular gambit, given the impossibly difficult regulatory and social environment they find themselves in. The only explanation for their perseverance must be that they have some financiers willing to bear the costs in their attempt to march healthy horses onto slaughterhouse floors. There’s just no way to view horse slaughtering as a viable business in the current environment, and its future, from a strictly economic perspective, is bleak as bleak can be.
You don’t find too many people seeking to open up whale processing facilities, or cockfighting arenas, on American soil, because any sane investor knows it’s a fool’s errand. There are just too many practical obstacles—legal, political, and social—in the way, even if the proponents had unfailing enthusiasm about the idea of killing whales or fighting roosters. The enterprise depends not only on the enthusiasm of the handful of boosters, but on society’s broader acceptance of the enterprise.
> First, as the operators of proposed slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico have learned, there is major local opposition to their enterprises. They will have to contend with a battery of regulatory challenges, protests, and public criticism if they wish to operate.
> Second, Congress is likely to shut the door on the industry, at least for the coming year. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have language in their 2014 spending bills that forbids USDA from spending any money to inspect the plants, and that means the plants won’t be able to operate. Now that a budget agreement has been reached, Congress is expected to act on that legislation by January 15th. All along, this prospect has been looming, and it defies easy explanation that these slaughter plant operators would go the expense of setting up plants and hiring staff even as Congress acts to put a stop to it all.
> Third, there is a highly uncertain market for their product. While there’s never been any demand in the U.S. for horse meat, the industry has relied on markets overseas, principally in Europe. But demand there has been in decline, and according to Animal People, per capita consumption is more than a pound per year in just four of 28 EU nations. Since the scandal that saw horsemeat mislabeled and sold as beef in several countries, per capita consumption rates has declined further still, due to concerns about food safety and the changing tastes of consumers.
Some big money player is probably backing the horse slaughter plants, and allowing them to make totally irrational business decisions. But it’s an economic dead end. One way or another, Americans won’t let these plants operate, just like we wouldn’t allow dog and cat slaughter plants, whale processing, or cockfighting arenas to operate. We have a great entrepreneurial spirit in America, but we also have core values. Horse slaughter just doesn’t make the cut as a legitimate business in our great country.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States, by Wayne Pacelle
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
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]
Gov. Martinez’ Claims to Oppose Horse Slaughter Plant Are False, Says One Thing and Does Another to Mislead Voters, Reward Donors
(Albuquerque, NM) – New Mexico Governor Martinez claims she opposes the controversial opening of an industrial facility to slaughter horses for processing into meat for human consumption, but her recent actions in the case demonstrate that she is being dishonest with voters about her position. The Governor’s appointees at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have tried repeatedly to weaken horse slaughter opponents’ case against the facility in recent State court proceedings; she accepts large campaign donations from the backers of the horse slaughter project, and her closest political associates are representing the horse slaughter industry in the case.
“The Governor is not being forthright about her actions to weaken citizens’ efforts to block the establishment of a commercial horse slaughter industry in New Mexico, and that is cynical,” said Gary King, candidate for Governor. “She apparently instructed her appointees at the NMED to try to prevent the Attorney General’s office from representing the public interest of New Mexico citizens at the Roswell environmental hearing, where we challenged the granting of a wastewater discharge permit for the proposed facility. The Governor’s staff filed motions repeatedly to block us.”
The Governor’s appointees also tried to block retired NMED employee and top New Mexico water expert Bill Olsen from testifying on behalf of the Attorney General’s at the Roswell hearing. Both attempts were thwarted by the Roswell hearing officer who ultimately allowed the Attorney General’s office to participate and testify, as shown by the official record of the public hearing.
“Despite the federal government’s decision to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption, I believe creating a horse slaughtering industry in New Mexico is wrong and I am strongly opposed,” Gov. Martinez – 4/13/12
Gov. Martinez wants to maintain a public posture of being anti-horse slaughter – while working to undermine efforts to block a horse slaughter facility – because public opinion in New Mexico is strongly in favor of animal protection.
She also has been accepting campaign funds from big corporate agricultural interests who are bankrolling the effort nationally to reinstate horse slaughter in the U.S. after a six year ban, despite the documented destructive, adverse environmental damage done to small town wastewater treatment facilities in Illinois and Texas before the practice was stopped in 2007.
Leonard Blach, a veterinarian and significant financial supporter of the Governor, testified at the Roswell hearing in favor of the horse slaughter plant when almost the entire veterinarian medical community opposes it. Blach has given nearly $3,000 to the Governor’s campaign and PAC during 2010 – 2013.
Pat Rogers, a top political advisor to Gov. Martinez, represents a pro-horse slaughter party in the federal court case where Attorney General King and others have litigated to prevent the Roswell plant opening due to serious environmental concerns which have been ignored by the USDA.
Source: Press Release, Gary King for Governor
Ongoing drought and decades of overgrazing have devastated grasslands on the Navajo Reservation. With a wild, feral horse population in the tens of thousands, the tribe has made the difficult decision to round up as many of the animals as possible. Most of those horses will end up at a slaughterhouse in Mexico.
At daybreak a group of Navajo cowboys hired by the tribe’s Department of Agriculture set up a corral at a lone windmill. Then they spread out on horseback and atv's in search of the animals. The man in charge, Ray Castillo, was scouting from a hilltop.
"As we were driving in, there was eight of them right down here," say's Ray. "So we figured we'd go after them first. The further in there we go, the more horses we're probably gonna start finding."
This is a problem all over the Western United States. But on the reservation it’s estimated there are somewhere between 60,000 and 75,000 feral horses. Officials say that’s four times what the land can support. So the Navajo tribe has decided to round up as many as possible and sell them since stray horses are dominating windmills, wells, natural springs, going to corrals, breaking into hay barns and causing damage.
Kim Johnson runs the reservation grazing management program. She says earlier this summer the president issued an emergency drought declaration that earmarked 1.3 million dollars to deal with the feral horse problem. About 60 communities, more than half the reservation, have requested roundups.
"There's also animals out there that are injured and nobodies there to take care of them," she says. "They are just dying
a slow death." Once rounded up, the unbranded animals are immediately sent to auction. Kim says the unbranded ones are sold to buyers that are bonded by the Navajo Nation and she believes the destination is Mexico to a slaughter processing
With the horse market at an all time low, the Navajo Nation is getting somewhere between $10 and $20 per head. A quarter of what it costs to bring them off the range. Recently the tribe officially came out in support of a horse slaughter processing plant that’s trying to open closer to home, in New Mexico. A lawsuit has temporarily stopped it from happening.
Erny Zah is a spokesman for the Navajo Nation. He says this has been a really difficult decision to make. "We have a kinship with all our surroundings and the horses, they are a part of our creation myth, they are a part of who we are as people. That's where those old ceremonies come in, of asking for their help by eating their meat, because at times during the winter months our people used to do that, to get strength. The animals are revered."
"This is not something we came to as an abrupt solution," says Zah. "This is something we've weighed, we've thought about we've prayed about and this is the best way we see to manage our horse population."
Some members of the Navajo Nation say taking such drastic measures with a sacred animal should be reached through consensus. Zah says the president's office is just trying to manage the Nation’s resources responsibly.
Source: KUNM Radio by Rita Daniels
Navajo Nation President, Ben Shelly
Among many issues President Ben Shelly lobbied for on his trip to Washington D.C. this week, was asking congressional leaders not to support a provision in the 2014 Agricultural Appropriations Bill that would reinstate a ban on horse slaughtering. The prospects aren't good, but meanwhile, the owner of a proposed horse slaughterhouse says he'd be willing to locate on the Navajo Nation - whose sovereign status may exempt it from the ban. In 2011, Congress removed a ban on horse slaughtering that had been in place since 2006. Even though the Obama Administration is against horse slaughtering, the U.S Department of Agriculture issued permits to Valley Meat Inc., of Roswell, N.M. and Responsible Transportation in Iowa in June to begin horse slaughter operations.
On Aug. 2, Shelly wrote to U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and other congressional leaders about the Navajo Nation's growing problems with feral horses, including his support for horse slaughtering from a land manager perspective. From his experience from driving across the reservation, especially driving to and from his home in Thoreau, N.M. to the tribal capital in Window Rock, the president said he would tell congressional leaders what he sees first-hand.
"They are starving and dying of thirst," he said about the estimated 75,000 feral horses on the reservation in an Aug. 16 interview with the Navajo Times. "I feel sorry for them," he added. "They're skinny, they're mustangs and they're small." In the letter to Grisham and also in his interview with the Navajo Times, Shelly said the range of the land - about 27,000 square miles - is suitable for only about 30,000 horses, and not 75,000. Shelly said the overpopulation of feral horses has resulted in the imbalance of the Navajo landscape, with the rangeland being depleted, water sources damaged through feces and urine contamination and even fatal car-horse collisions on the highways. He also said that the thousands of free roaming feral horses are competing with other livestock and wild game for resources to survive, which he claims has changed the migratory processes for wild game.
He cited the Navajo Department of Agriculture's statistics about how much of an impact these horses have on the landscape, saying a single feral horse consumes 5 gallons of water per day, or 1,825 gallons of water per year. These feral horses also consume 18 pounds of forage per day, or 6,570 pounds per year. "Removing 159 from the Navajo Nation would save 290,175 gallons of water per year and 1.1 million pounds of forage," the president said. On his trip, Shelly said he would also meet with officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and challenge them about helping tribes with managing their lands, considering
the agency has a history of Indian policy like the 1930s Navajo Livestock Reduction.
"We now have an overstock of horses," he said. "Why are they not here? The BIA should be in charge of this. What happened to that federal policy? That's what needs to be said in Washington, D.C." Though he favors the idea of slaughtering horses to help restore the land back in balance with nature, the president also said he's "open" to other ideas, such as adoptions, before the horses go to slaughter. "I'm open," he said, before adding that if the feral horses couldn't be sold or adopted, slaughter is "the only thing you can do."
Shelly will need to do some major convincing. According to a June 13 press release issued by the House Appropriations Committee, the appropriations bill passed the committee's floor with several amendments. One of those amendments,
sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia), prohibits government funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. - which effectively shuts down the industry. The amendment has bipartisan support. The appropriations bill, which totals about $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, now proceeds to the full House floor for consideration. It is $1.5 billion below the fiscal 2013 bill enacted into law and approximately equal to the current funding level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts, according to the appropriations committee.
"Horse meat also poses significant food safety issues that make it dangerous for human consumption," she said. "I urge Congress to pass this Agriculture Appropriations bill that will prevent horses, a majestic fixture of the American West, from being methodically and inhumanely put to death."
Like Grisham, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King opposes horse slaughtering. He is an intervener in the U.S. Humane Society's case against the U.S Department of Agriculture for its alleged failure to conduct the proper environmental review before placing inspectors in horse slaughter plants, including at Valley Meat Inc.
"I think horses that have been wild or horses that are undernourished are not horses amenable for human consumption," King said, adding that in the U.S. horses are not perceived as food animals like pigs, chickens or cattle. King said the issue in the case is about the way in which the USDA issued the permit, without environmental review, to have federal inspectors inside Valley Meat Inc.'s operations. "This is something that hasn't been done in a number of years," he said. "It is a major federal action. That is what triggers an necessity for the environmental impact."
The U.S. Humane Society was contacted for an interview, but according to Stephanie Twinning, public relations manager for the organization, lawyers encouraged her not comment on the matter because it's in litigation. The Humane Society has maintained that Armijo's temporary restraining order, which prevents Valley Meat Inc. and other horse processing plants from operating for 30 days, is a step toward ending the inhumane treatment of horses at slaughterhouses.
Armijo has at least until Sept. 3 to decide whether to extend the order to a preliminary injunction, which could put Valley Meat Inc., out of business for at least six months to a year. Valley Meat Inc. owner Rick De Los Santos, however, remains optimistic about how Armijo will rule, because the Humane Society, King and other horse advocate plaintiffs have the burden of proof.
"The Humane Society has burden of proof to prove this to the judge they're correct in what they're saying," De Los Santos said. De Los Santos, whose plant was a cattle slaughterhouse for 22 years, said his company is exempt from the environmental clearance.
In late July, an arsonist set fire to the plant. He is waiting for an October hearing to renew a discharge permit for his operation, which was requested by the New Mexico Environment Department after more than 450 comments were filed against his operation becoming a horse slaughterhouse.
De Los Santos contends that most of the comments are from people from out of the U.S. and state of New Mexico, adding that there were no comments from residents of Roswell, known as a farming community. He also noted that the plaintiffs posted a $495,000 bond, ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Hayes Scott, because Valley Meat Inc., and Responsible Transportation (which has since dropped plans to slaughter horses) would suffer damages and losses from being inoperable.
The Humane Society objects to the bond and challenged it in hearings on Wednesday. The outcome of that hearing was
unavailable as of press time. De Los Santos added that if he could get the Navajo Nation's support to set up a slaughterhouse on the reservation, he would jump at the opportunity. "It would be something that would benefit the Navajo Nation," he said, adding that China and Mexico are the largest consumers of horsemeat. "I'd be willing to talk to President Shelly."
As for the state legislature, representatives Sandra Jeff and Sharon Clahchischilliage, who are both enrolled members of the Navajo Nation, share Shelly's concerns about the feral horse issue on the reservation and have come out in favor of slaughtering.
Source: Navajo Times by Alastair Lee Bitsóí