The New Mexico horse slaughter controversy lives on in U.S. District Court, based on activity this month in state court in Santa Fe and federal court in Albuquerque. Earlier this month, the office of Attorney General Gary King filed pleadings seeking to enforce and modify an injunction entered in the 2013 lawsuit against the Valley Meat Co., which had proposed a horse slaughter operation near Roswell.
The emergency motion said in its opening salvo, “Before the ink on their motion was dry, defendants reneged” on their statement that there were no plans to operate a horse-processing facility.
Valley Meat, Dairy Packing, Mountain View Packing and Ricardo de Los Santos, the attorney general’s Dec. 2 filing says, “simultaneously were busy creating a new shell company, through which they applied for the very same permits to conduct commercial horse slaughter that they had withdrawn only a few weeks earlier.”
The motion asks that any successor company, namely D’Allende Meats of El Paso, be bound by the same terms in the preliminary injunction as Valley Meat and that it be barred it from pursuing permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the New Mexico Environment Department.
The Santa Fe district court entered an order Jan. 17 barring the companies from pursuing a horse slaughter operation.
The Dec. 2 filing by Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff contends Valley Meat and other companies acted with a new “shell” company, D’Allende Meats, and owners Jose Hernandez and Ryoichi Okubo, to sidestep the injunction. At a minimum, Biernoff suggested, the latest actions by the defendants represent evasion, and at worst “an attempt … to perpetrate a fraud on the court.”
The heated response from the other side suggested that the AG’s Office has engaged in “malicious abuse of process” and “lied to the court.” It promises to seek sanctions.
According to Biernoff’s filing, the Valley Meat attorney responded with “threats,” saying that by the time the dust settles in the litigation, outgoing AG King “will have only succeed(ed) handing off a bucket of liability to (incoming AG Hector) Balderas. This is truly bad form at the 11th hour.”
Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat and D’Allende Meats, could not be reached Wednesday. He asked to postpone a hearing that was scheduled Wednesday in Santa Fe – a delay opposed by the attorney general – because he is attorney for Aubrey Dunn in the recount of the land commissioner race. According to unofficial results, Dunn defeated incumbent Ray Powell by less than 1 percent.
The Valley Meat/D’Allende lawsuit was removed to federal court and assigned to U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson, a former state district judge in Roswell before his appointment to the federal bench in 2001.
The removal notice suggests the Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution may play a role in the litigation. D’Allende Meats is not a shell company, according to the removal notice, but a Texas limited liability company “seeking to engage in interstate commerce” and pursue federal permits to operate a New Mexico facility previously operated by Valley Meat.
Source: Albuquerque Journal by Scott Sandin
This article failed to mention that the USDA has already denied D'Allende Meats' application for horse slaughter inspections. Click here to view USDA document, which is included as part of a supplemental file regarding the lawsuit against Valley Meat.
Furthermore, there are currently no U.S. appropriated funds for any horse slaughter inspectors anywhere in the country. More good news, the Fiscal Year 2015 omnibus federal spending bill put forward by congressional negotiators this week includes the vital amendment that continues to block the use of federal funds to inspect horse slaughterhouses. The renewal of this spending ban will prevent horse slaughterhouses from opening in the United States for at least one more year.
It’s official. The controversial horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico will not be opening. “I think it’s just time to stop and see what will happen now,” said Valley Meat Owner Rick De Los Santos.
For almost four years, De Los Santos has been trying to slaughter horses for food. He’s faced court battles from animal rights groups and the Attorney General along with federal push back. Earlier this year the President signed a bill to stop funding horse slaughterhouse inspections until 2016.
Friday, De Le Santos told KRQE News 13 the fight is over. “It really is at this point at the end of that business in Roswell by them,” said Valley Meat Attorney A. Blair Dunn. On Thursday, Dunn submitted a letter to the New Mexico Environmental Department withdrawing the plant’s application for a ground water discharge permit.
The permit, which would allow the plant to discharge animal waste, is a must for the plant to operate. Blair claims the department strung them along for seven months, never saying no the permit, but never saying yes either.
“They’ve been telling us well we need a 30-day extension, we need 45 days, we need 60, we cant make a decision right now,” said De Los Santos.
The letter states the inability of the Secretary to make a decision has contributed to the destruction of Valley Meat’s lawful business. Valley Meet also claims the Attorney General’s office played a big role in the slaughterhouse closure and Dunn says there’s a good chance they’ll sue the state because of it.
Animal activists say they’re happy the horse slaughter fight is ending. “It’s great news for New Mexico,” said Laura Bonar with Animal Protection of New Mexico. “Horse slaughter is cruel, horse slaughter is dangerous and horse slaughter is not supported by Americans.”
Source: KRQE, by Emily Younger
Click here to read Valley Meat's Notice of Withdrawal of Application to the New Mexico Environmental Department.
A state district judge issued a preliminary injunction Friday night against a horse-slaughter plant in New Mexico.It was another setback, perhaps a fatal one, for Valley Meat Co., which for two years has been the target of lawsuits and heavy public opposition. The company wants to kill horses and sell the meat in foreign markets.
Judge Matthew Wilson of Santa Fe granted the injunction against the company. He accepted state Attorney General Gary King’s arguments that Valley Meat would harm the environment and contaminate the food chain.
Wilson’s ruling came after a confusing afternoon, in which he first issued an order saying he would hold a hearing on whether he should remove himself from the case because of challenges to his impartiality.
Lawyers for the slaughterhouse had filed an emergency motion asking Wilson to recuse himself. They said the judge had a conflict of interest that he failed to disclose, and that his Facebook page showed evidence of bias against Valley Meat Co.
Blair Dunn, a lawyer for Valley Meat Co., said Wilson had ties to King’s office but never mentioned them when hearing King’s lawsuit against the company. “We learned [Friday] that Judge Wilson up until 2010 worked as a special assistant attorney general assigned to the New Mexico Human Services Department. It was inappropriate that he failed to disclose that,” Dunn said.
A few hours after Wilson said he would hold a recusal hearing on whether he should be on the case, he ruled against the slaughterhouse and for the attorney general.
Dunn said his next move would be to ask the New Mexico Supreme Court to remove Wilson from the case. “We asked him nicely to recuse himself, but he’s never going to do it,” Dunn said. “The only remedy in this kind of situation is to go to the Supreme Court.”
Wilson, a Democrat, was appointed to the District Court bench in October by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. The high-profile horse-slaughter lawsuit has been his most publicized case during his three months as a judge. On Wilson’s Facebook page, which promotes his campaign for election to the bench, various public comments against Valley Meat Co. have been posted in the last two weeks. Dunn said a judge should not have allowed comments from the public on cases he is hearing.
Wilson could not be reached about his Facebook page or Dunn’s allegations.One posting on Wilson’s Facebook page was from a woman in Pennsylvania. It said: “Implore you to not allow the needless slaughter of horses. PLS turn this down. It is disgusting and inhumane.”
In granting the preliminary injunction against Valley Meat Co., Wilson accepted all the arguments made by King’s legal team. Wilson said that, unless he ruled against the slaughterhouse, “the state and its residents will suffer irreparable injury as a result of Valley Meat’s imminent, self-declared violations” of the water-quality and food acts.
Valley Meat is not operating. But King’s lawyers argued that the company intended to begin slaughtering horses even without a state-required sewage discharge system. Dunn said in hearings before Wilson that the attorney general’s claims were not true.
Dunn said Valley Meat’s owner, Rick De Los Santos, would comply with all state and federal requirements, including sewage discharge. In fact, Dunn said, before King filed his lawsuit, the company was working with the state Environment Department to obtain a discharge permit or an acceptable pump-and-haul system.
Dunn said King’s lawsuit should have been thrown out by Wilson because the case was being reviewed administratively by the Environment Department. Moreover, Dunn argued that Wilson’s court had no jurisdiction over meat inspections or water-quality complaints.
No matter what happens in the state courts, Valley Meat and proposed horse-slaughter plants in Iowa and Missouri may never be able to open. Congress has eliminated money from the federal budget for horse-meat inspectors. A similar budgetary maneuver in 2007 effectively closed U.S. horse-slaughter plants.
De Los Santos said the congressional cuts did not end horse slaughter. Rather, he said, American horses were simply exported to border countries and killed there. About 158,000 U.S. horses were shipped to Mexico and Canada in 2012, mostly to slaughterhouses. De Los Santos said the export system meant horses live in pain and filth during transport to distant slaughterhouses.
Proponents of U.S. horse slaughter have included the Yakama tribe in Washington state. Its lawyer, John Boyd of Albuquerque, has argued that an explosion of wild horses was wrecking the environment and reducing elk and deer populations on tribal lands.
One of King’s main arguments against Valley Meat Co. was that horse meat could be tainted with drugs. King said New Mexico’s reputation would suffer globally if the state were the source of an unsafe food product.
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican by Milan Simonich
Click Here to read Judge Matthew's 1/17/14 Ruling [PDF]
(SANTA FE)---State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson today granted Attorney General Gary King’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Valley Meat Company, preventing the opening of a proposed horse slaughterhouse until the AG’s lawsuit is resolved.
“The judge’s decision allows our lawsuit to continue while preventing the immediate killing of horses for human consumption,” says AG King. “I still strongly believe that Valley Meat’s proposal for commercial horse slaughter posed a serious danger to consumers and to our environment.”
With the close scrutiny of horse slaughter that the Attorney General’s lawsuit has prompted, the U.S. Congress has approved, and the President has signed, an appropriations bill that restores the long-standing prohibition on funding for federal inspection of horse slaughterhouses – which effectively bans commercial horse slaughter nationwide.
Attorney General King is especially grateful to U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, for their supportive efforts to de-fund the federal inspections.
Numerous other individuals and groups have helped accomplish this important result, particularly Front Range Equine Rescue, which first discovered Valley Meat’s plans to get into the horse meat business and has worked tirelessly ever since to stop those operations, and Animal Protection of New Mexico, which has led the fight for equine protection in our state.
Click Here to read the filing [PDF]
Source: NEWS RELEASE, Attorney General Gary K. King
CONTACT: Phil Sisneros 505-222-9174
Today, President Obama signed into law an omnibus $1.1 trillion, 1,582-page spending bill that contains some very good news for horses and those of us who love them.
Most immediately, the Act ensures that horses will not be slaughtered for human consumption in this country for the time being—restoring a ban on using any Federal dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Without those government inspections, slaughterhouses are not legally able to comply with Federal Meat Inspection Act standards.
Although no horse has been legally slaughtered for food on U.S. soil since the remaining plants were finally shut down in 2007, last year three facilities in New Mexico, Iowa & Missouri were granted permits to start slaughtering horses again—after one plant sued the USDA to allow the killing to begin. This was only possible because Congress’s previous inspection funding ban expired in 2011, demonstrating that targeting inspections is at best a temporary and tenuous tool in the effort to permanently protect American horses from harm.
Indeed, letting this provision lapse has led a tumultuous, high-stakes battle this past year—with the USDA initially issuing permits to slaughter horses, animal advocates suing to stop them, courts imposing injunctions to halt the process (and then rescinding them), local and state agencies denying permits, and even current and former Governors weighing in publicly to try and stop the killing. It has been a massive drain of time, resources, and energy for all involved.
Thankfully horse slaughter has again been derailed, but just for the moment, as this renewed ban lasts only through September 30, 2014, the end of the fiscal year. In order to truly bring an end to this abhorrent practice, it is time to urge your members of congress to pass the Safeguard American Foods Export (SAFE) Act S. 541 and H.R. 1094. This bill would permanently ban the domestic slaughter of horses and halt the export of American horses for slaughter abroad by prohibiting the “sale or transport of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption.” Please make a call today.
But wait, that’s not all… Today’s enacted spending bill also restored protections for wild horses as well. Using the same funding ban tactic, the bill prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds on “the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros…or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.” This helps fix a 2004 spending amendment that removed 34-year old protections and allowed the Bureau of Land Management to sell wild horses for slaughter if they were over ten years old or had failed to be adopted at least three times.
Additionally, today’s bill grants the U.S. Forest service authority to spend or transfer funds to help adopt wild horses and burros from National Forest System lands, and also for the BLM to enter into 10-year agreements “for the long-term care and maintenance of excess wild free roaming horses and burros” on private lands.
All-in-all a great day for American horses…but there is still much work to be done.
Now let’s get the SAFE Act passed and make these protections permanent.
Source: Animal Legal Defense Fund by Chris Green
Congress' latest budget bill blocks the resumption of horse slaughter in the U.S. by cutting funding for inspections of the process. The prohibition on spending by the Department of Agriculture is included in the $1.1 trillion budget bill that Congress sent to President Obama on Thursday, January 16, 2014.
Animal protection groups applauded the vote.
"Americans care for horses, we ride horses, and we even put them to work. But we don't eat horses in the United States. And we shouldn't be gathering them up and slaughtering them for people to eat in far-off places," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, one of a number of groups involved in litigation that has blocked proposed horse slaughterhouses from opening in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa.
The last domestic horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, a year after Congress first cut funding for the inspections in an attempt to shutter the industry.
Funding was restored in 2011, and Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., has been fighting since to convert its small cattle operation to horse slaughter. Last year, Valley and plants in Iowa and Missouri received federal permits to open, but the efforts have been blocked by a series of court orders.
Valley's efforts ignited an emotional, national debate over whether horses are companion animals or livestock, and sparked divisions between rescue groups, Indian tribes and politicians over the most humane way to deal with neglected and abandoned horses.
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 message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better, and this abhorrent industry will not be tolerated," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations.
Despite the growing government action to keep horse slaughter from resuming, an attorney for Valley and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., said Thursday his group will continue to fight to produce horse meat.
Blair Dunn said the companies would be looking at filing a claim that the funding ban violates provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Source: AP by Jeri Clausing
WASHINGTON --The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities, reinstating a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the 2014 fiscal year.
The massive omnibus bill containing the defund language is expected to pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by the president later this week.
“The message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better and this abhorrent industry will not be tolerated. Using taxpayer dollars to fund the inhumane horse slaughter industry is reckless and wasteful,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “We thank the members of the House for halting efforts to resume horse slaughter on U.S. soil and urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill.”
The defund provision was approved by both the House and Senate Agricultural Appropriations Committees as amendments offered by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Congress regularly included a similar spending prohibition each year from 2005 to 2010, but failed to include the language in the 2012 budget, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter in the U.S., despite broad opposition to the practice. Several applications to open horse slaughter facilities have recently been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa.
“I am incredibly proud that the omnibus appropriations bill includes a provision banning USDA inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively prohibiting horse slaughter in the U.S.,” said Rep. Moran.
“These incredible companion animals don’t deserve to be callously slaughtered for human consumption. We fought hard for the past three years to reinstate this ban to prevent slaughter facilities from reopening on American soil. This achievement would not have been possible without the support of numerous federal, state and local officials, animal protection organizations, and dedicated citizens across the country.”
In a national poll commissioned by the ASPCA, it was revealed that 80 percent of American voters are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter is inherently cruel and often erroneously compared to humane euthanasia. The methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses are difficult to stun and often remain conscious during their butchering and dismemberment. Whether slaughter occurs in the U.S. or abroad, these equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest, and in dangerously overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to a cruel death by a grisly foreign industry that produces unsafe food for consumers.
While the FY 2014 spending bill protects American communities from the devastating environmental and economic impact of horse slaughter facilities, it does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter across the border to Canada and Mexico. To address this issue, Sens. Landrieu and Graham, and Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094)—bipartisan legislation that would end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat.
For more information on the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.
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
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
SANTA FE, N.M.—A request by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King to prevent a horse slaughter plant from opening is "nothing more than political grandstanding" by an official who is seeking to become the next governor of the Land of Enchantment, A. Blair Dunn, an attorney representing Valley Meat Co. LLC, wrote in court papers.
King, who is running for governor in 2014, has moved in state court to prevent Valley Meat from opening a facility that intends to process horses for human consumption in Asia and Europe.
Matthew Wilson, a state judge who normally hears family law matters, barred the business from opening under a temporary restraining order. A hearing is scheduled for today, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. on whether the order should be extended.
On Dec. 19, King filed a lawsuit in the First Judicial District against Valley Meat, its owner Ricardo De Los Santos and two related companies, Dairyland Packing, Inc., and Mountain View Packing LLC. (Click Here to view filing)
The complaint was filed because Valley Meat said it planned to operate without the required regulatory approval, according to King's office in a news release.
Valley Meat has been accused of repeatedly violating environmental requirements and federal food-safety laws, including dumping "the remains of hundreds of dead and/or slaughtered animals on the grounds of the Slaughterhouse, in what became massive piles of rotting flesh and bones."
Dunn, Valley Meat's attorney, denies that Valley Meat intends to operate unlawfully. The business has been working with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) for authority to discharge wastewater into another entity's facility while its application for a renewal of its own groundwater discharge permit remains pending, he said in a phone interview with Food Product Design.
NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn will determine whether to issue a water discharge permit to Valley Meat, although a decision is not expected until at least February, NMED spokesman Jim Winchester said, adding that NMED has not received an application from Valley Meat for a separate "pump and haul permit".
King's lawsuit characterizes Valley Meat's plan as an attempt to circumvent regulations
by discharging wastewater to underground permeable tanks, potentially exposing the groundwater to contaminants. The business cannot lawfully discharge wastewater without an NMED-issued permit, the lawsuit contends.
In court papers, Dunn argues Wilson lacks authority to hear King's lawsuit because claims based on the Water Quality Improvement Act (WQA) are under the jurisdiction of the Water Quality Control Commission (WCQQ).
"And a party or agency dissatisfied with the decision of the WQCC may only appeal the decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals," Dunn wrote. "The New Mexico Legislature has made it abundantly clear that jurisdiction over these issues rests only with the WQCC and the Court of Appeals, nowhere in statute or precedential case law does a District Court achieve subject matter jurisdiction over issues of compliance or alleged anticipated violations of the WQA."In a letter to a state senator, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office previously raised concerns that horses destined for the slaughterhouse might have been treated with drugs that are harmful to humans, rendering the meat adulterated in violation of state and federal laws.
Opponents of horse slaughter, ranging from animal rights groups to King, maintain the practice is inhumane and poses food-safety risks.
"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," King's office stated in the Dec. 31, 2013, news release.
The state lawsuit alleges Valley Meat's operation would violate the New Mexico Food Act, New Mexico Unfair Practices Act and the WQA and regulations as well as constitute a public nuisance.
In a response filed with the court, Dunn challenged King's conclusions that horse meat is unsafe and declared that even if such meat was adulterated, it would fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "This court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over issues which fall squarely in purview of federal law under the FMIA [Federal Meat Inspection Act] and not under state law," Dunn wrote.
A lawsuit challenging horse slaughter in federal court was dismissed on Nov. 1, 2013. Plaintiffs had argued that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by issuing grants of inspection and adopting a related equine directive. Christina Armijo, U.S. District Judge, agreed with FSIS that NEPA didn't apply to its granting of inspections because the agency's actions were not discretionary.
The case was appealed and a temporary restraining order (TRO) was initially granted, further delaying Valley Meat's plans. In a ruling last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit lifted the TRO, holding that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Front Range Equine Rescue and other groups challenging horse slaughter failed to meet their burden of proof for an injunction.
Circuit Judges Gregory Phillips and David Ebel found the plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on their appeal and cited a lack of evidence that they would "suffer irreparable harm" if FSIS allows the plants to begin slaughtering horses.
"Reliance upon environmental damage arising out of previous, unrelated, and limited instances of equine slaughter is too speculative and does not show a significant risk to establish irreparable harm," the judges wrote in the Dec. 13, 2013, order.
Plans to Process Horse Meat
Dunn said Valley Meat plans to process 120 horses each day for human consumption mostly in China, Japan, Russia and Europe. American horses already are slaughtered today in Canada and Mexico and being shipped to those countries, he said.
According to court documents, Valley Meat will yield a profit of $180 per animal, or $435,000 in one month, based on the slaughtering of 2,420 horses.
Dunn also represents another company that intends to slaughter horses, Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Dunn said Rains is seeking a wastewater discharge permit from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and a hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20 on whether horses should be excluded from the permit. Although the agency issued a permit that excluded horses, Dunn argued horses have always been considered livestock under Missouri law. (A spokesperson for the state DRN did not return a phone call).
Rains, which previously processed cattle, goats, sheep and ostriches, plans to sell process for human consumption in the United States if it is able to secure a permit for horse slaughter, it, Dunn said. Rains' owner, David Rains, is currently driving a school bus, he said.
"They have a market for it here for people who want it [horse meat]," Dunn said. "They have been ready to go for a year as well absent these new hurdles that keep" occurring.
Responsible Transportation LLC is another business that applied for a horse slaughter permit. The Iowa-based firm reportedly converted to a beef operation last year. When asked if Responsible Transportation plans to convert to a horse slaughter plant if it can overcome legal hurdles, Pat Rogers, a New Mexico lawyer representing the business in the federal litigation, said he wasn't sure of its plans and referred the question to Responsible Transportation's CEO Keaton Walker, who did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In 2011, Walker and two other University of Iowa graduates raised $1.5 million from 22 local investors to start up an equine-processing facility, according to a July 19, 2013, affidavit from Walker that was filed with the federal trial and appeals courts. Late in 2012, the company purchased a vacant meat processing plant in Sigourney, Iowa, for $650,000 and subsequently invested more than $1 million to renovate the facility.
According to Walker's affidavit, Responsible Transportation and the founders have invested roughly $2.9 million over three years to open the plant and meet state and federal requirements. Walker wrote in his affidavit that Responsible Transportation was bleeding $60,000 a month in overhead expenses with no revenues.
Source: Food Product Design by Josh Long