State District Judge Matthew Wilson heard seven hours of testimony and bitter argument, but then delayed until Friday a ruling on whether a horse-slaughter plant should be barred from opening. Emotions ran high Monday, January 13th, in Wilson’s Santa Fe courtroom, and he even threatened to hold the slaughterhouse’s attorney in contempt of court for an outburst during the final moments of the hearing.
Blair Dunn, the 6-foot-9 lawyer who represents the Roswell-area Valley Meat Co., slammed his hand on a table while his opponent from the state attorney general’s staff was making a rebuttal argument.
A brief silence held the courtroom before Wilson spoke. He told Dunn that a brazen show of disrespect was no way to make an objection. “Explain to me why I shouldn’t hold you in contempt,” the judge said to Dunn.
Dunn apologized. Wilson then let the confrontation die without punishing Dunn.
Dunn could not hide his frustration after a day on which he got nowhere on three of his key arguments. He said Wilson had no jurisdiction to even hear the case, but the judge accepted testimony while promising to later decide whether he had any authority to block the plant’s opening.
State Attorney General Gary King, a Democrat running for governor, sued Valley Meat Co. on those claims. Dunn has accused King of grandstanding for political gain.
Valley Meat last month had just won a federal court case challenging its operation and was negotiating details of a sewage-discharge permit with the state Environment Department, Dunn said. But King then sued the company in state District Court, a venue Dunn says has no authority to intervene on the company’s permits or business plan.
Ari Biernoff, one of King’s assistants, argued to Wilson that the attorney general had to fight the company because it poses a threat to the public. Biernoff said this case was similar to a retail business that suddenly decides it can sell medical marijuana. The attorney general cannot sit back and allow a business to do anything it likes when public safety is at stake, Biernoff said.
King’s legal team called a veterinarian and a former bureau chief for the Environment Department to try to make the case that the Valley Meat Co. is dangerous. The company proposes to slaughter up to 121 horses a day and sell the meat to stores and restaurants in international markets. Randy Parker, a veterinarian from the Colorado Springs area, was hired by King’s office to testify that horse slaughter could mar the food chain. Parker said horses often receive drugs that are not safe for human consumption.
“I wouldn’t eat horse meat,” Parker said.
But on cross-examination by Dunn, Parker admitted that he ate beef, even though cattle may receive some of the same drugs that can be used to treat horses when they get sick. Wilson, over Dunn’s objection, said he regarded the veterinarian as an expert witness.
Another state witness was William Olson, who formerly worked for the Environment Department. He said Valley Meat Co. was a bad corporate citizen, once operating a cattle-slaughter plant for three years without a valid sewage permit.
Dunn countered with a series of witnesses who testified in favor of the horse-slaughter plant. One was Jack King of the Environment Department’s health bureau. He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has the sole authority to inspect meat-processing plants.
James Duffey, a Chaves County commissioner, appeared as an unpaid witness for Valley Meat Co. He said he lives perhaps a mile from the horse-slaughter plant and would welcome it as a neighbor if it met all requirements of the USDA and state Environment Department. “It’s providing jobs in our community and revenue to our community,” Duffey said. Benny House, the Otero County sheriff, also testified for the company. He said the number of abandoned horses in his area is escalating.
One of Dunn’s broad arguments for the plant is that the number of wild horses in America has increased since horse slaughter was halted seven years ago. Congress in 2007 stopped funding inspections for horse-slaughter plants.
In turn, Dunn said, businesses began exporting hundreds of thousands of horses to Mexico and Canada, where they die after long, painful trips to foreign slaughterhouses.
Source: The Santa Fe New Mexican by Milan Simonich
Contact Milan Simonich at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @milansnmreport.
A New Mexico hearings officer says the state should deny a wastewater discharge permit for Valley Meat in Roswell, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources says it will get back to Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin once it decides if horses are livestock.
These state regulatory barriers now face the two companies planning to slaughter horses after the Dec. 13 decision from the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver gave USDA permission to provide equine inspections for the two businesses.
The professional water quality staff in the New Mexico Department of the Environment wanted to give a water discharge permit to Valley Meat, but the hearing officer assigned to hear the case, Felicia Orth, recommended that the application be denied due to the company’s previous environmental violations when it was a cattle slaughterhouse.
Valley’s past history, Orth stated, shows a “willful disregard” of New Mexico’s water quality provisions, a question of law and fact that justifies denial. Her recommendation, along with the 49-page decision, now goes to Ryan Flynn, New Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment.
Blair Dunn, attorney for both Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meats, said the Roswell facility requires either a discharge permit for up to 8,000 gallons a day into underground holding tanks, or else it will have to rely on a pump and haul operation, which apparently does not require a permit.
Dunn has 15 days to file a response to the hearing officer’s decision, and Flynn then has 30 days after that to make his decision.
In Missouri, where top state officials claim to be staying out of regulatory decisions, the state DNR says it has to decide if horses are included in the permit it already issued to Rains to slaughter livestock. Dunn says horses have long been deemed livestock under Missouri’s laws and regulation.
A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon says the governor’s office is not involved in the decision-making.
Finally, in the ongoing legal action involving possible horse slaughter, the Santa Fe District Court’s family law judge will entertain oral arguments on Monday on whether to continue a restraining order against Valley’s operation until a civil suit brought by Attorney General Gary King plays out.
Both Valley and Rains want to produce horsemeat for human consumption, but only for export. An estimated 158,000 U.S. horses were slaughtered in Mexico and Canada in 2012. No USDA-inspected horse slaughter has occurred in the U.S. since 2007, but the practice could resume under existing USDA budget authority.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
January 8, 2014
(Albuquerque, NM) – Candidate for Governor Gary King today called on Governor Martinez to take immediate steps to block the proposed horse slaughterhouse in Roswell by directing her Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to take into serious consideration the opinion of the state environmental hearing officer who yesterday recommended that the operational permits to the Valley Meat company be denied.
“By waiting to block the permits, Governor Martinez has not only endangered these majestic horses, she is wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars. She could end this highly controversial project now by instructing her cabinet Secretary in charge of granting or denying a permit to the Valley Meat company to consider the strong evidence against this project,” said King.
“Horse slaughter is wrong. Human consumption of horse meat that may contain drugs could be dangerous. Discharging thousands of gallons of waste every day from an industrial horse slaughter operation would harm the environment,” said King. “Governor Martinez could have taken action long ago to address this controversy. This isn’t about politics – it’s about the humane treatment of horses and good stewardship. The only question is whether she will finally make the right decision. ”
“I am grateful to the many thousands of people from within New Mexico and around the country who have signed my petition, asking Gov. Martinez to stop the horse slaughterhouse. While the state court will hopefully make the right decision, this has gone on too long,” King added.
Source: Gary King for Governor
Congress returns to Washington today to convene the second session of the 113th Congress, and it’s a good time to take stock of what was achieved in 2013 and the pathway for animals in the New Year. In terms of general lawmaking, the 113th Congress has been known for inaction and partisan gridlock. It passed fewer laws in its first year—65—than any single session on record. Yet despite the dysfunction in Washington, we’ve made real progress on key animal protection issues.
Horse Slaughter: The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills include identical language barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, language added during committee markup in both chambers at the behest of Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The horse slaughter defund provision, requested for the first time by the agency itself in the president’s budget, would reinstate a prohibition that had been in place from 2007 to 2011.
It is urgently needed, as some companies are about to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility.
The shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in Europe underscores the potential threat to American health if horse slaughter plants open here. Moreover, horse slaughter is cruel and cannot be made humane, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight-or-flight response, and the methods used to slaughter them rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment.
The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They don’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. We’re pressing to have the horse slaughter provision sustained in the omnibus bill that Congress plans to act on by January 15 to avoid another government shutdown, and ultimately seeking to pass the free-standing Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 541/H.R. 1094, sponsored by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to provide a more lasting and comprehensive solution.
Horse Soring: The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act--H.R. 1518/S. 1406, championed by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.—has gained major momentum with the bipartisan support of almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate, and a successful hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation boasts a lengthy list of endorsements, including the American Horse Council and 48 other national and state horse groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and veterinary medical associations in all 50 states; many animal protection groups; and others.
The PAST Act amends an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act of 1970, to better rein in the cruel practice of “soring”—in which unscrupulous trainers hurt Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to make it painful for them to step down, so they will display an extreme high-stepping gait that wins prizes at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, attaching excessively “weighted” shoes, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas.
More than 40 years ago, Congress tried to stop this abuse, but the Horse Protection Act is too weak, and rampant soring continues, according to a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General that recommended reforms incorporated in the PAST Act. This legislation is not expected to add costs to the federal government; it will simply enable USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are already breaking federal law, committing heinous cruelty, cheating to win unfair advantage at horse shows, and profiting from it. That subset of the show horse world doesn’t want Congress to alter the status quo. But many others in the show horse world are strongly advocating the PAST Act to deal with morally repugnant behavior that is giving their industry a major black eye, hurting attendance at shows, driving away corporate sponsors, and driving down horse sale prices.
Horse Racing: The House Energy and Commerce Committee also held a compelling hearing on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013, S. 973/H.R. 2012, led by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle testified in favor of the legislation.
A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.”
According to Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Racing Board, “It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown. The legislation would ban doping of racehorses, and give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules. Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.
Other Pending Horse Protection Efforts Include:
Source: Excerpt from the Humane Society Legislative Fund, by Michael Markarian. Click Here to read the full article.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will help determine the fate of a proposed horse slaughter plant later this month, as state officials weigh a permit application that would allow the facility to begin processing equines in Gallatin.
With the deadline for a decision looming, officials with the company, Rains Natural Meats, say they are worried that political pressure will influence the process.
Rains' company representatives say DNR officials have already misinterpreted Missouri regulations in dealing with the horse slaughter issue.
But Gena Terlizzi, a DNR spokeswoman, said the agency has strictly adhered to state procedures. And she noted that Rains initially signaled it would not be slaughtering horses at the facility.
In November, the natural resources agency granted Rains a general operating permit to begin slaughtering livestock, except for horses. "DNR granted the permit they requested," said Terlizzi.
But attorneys for Rains say the state has never excluded horses in granting such permits, and they objected to the exclusion of equines. "Horses have always been considered livestock under Missouri law and code," said Blair Dunn, a New Mexico-based attorney representing Rains. But now, DNR officials have "got it into their heads" to treat horses differently, he said.
He suggested the decision was political. "The resistance in Missouri seems to come from the agency and therefore the governor," Dunn said. The Humane Society of the United States "screams so loud it makes politicians nervous. They don't want to get crosswise with them for fear of being attacked."
Scott Holste, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, did not respond to questions about whether Nixon supports horse slaughter for human consumption. He referred questions to Terlizzi, the DNR spokeswoman, who said the matter was being handled in accordance with Missouri regulations and with no involvement from the governor's office.
Bruce Wagman, an attorney for Front Range Equine Rescue, a horse advocacy group that has been fighting Rains' efforts to secure a permit, said DNR was right to make the distinction between horses and other livestock. Cows, pigs, and other animals are raised in a regulated environment with the knowledge that they will eventually be consumed by humans.
"The big difference with horses is they're raised as our companion animals, or work animals, or race horses," he said. Over the course of their lives, they're often given "a whole bunch of drugs" without their owners thinking "this is going to be meat," said Wagman.
Rains Natural Meats officials scoffed at this, saying any horses they purchase for slaughter will be tested for drugs, following federal guidelines. "We only work through certified horse buyers, and they will not get their money for those horses until they have a clean test," said David Rains, vice president of the company. And he said it would be "bad business" for him to sell meat with traces of pharmaceuticals.
In November, Rains amended its application and asked for a new permit with no exclusions. The state has until Jan. 26 to rule on the new application.
"If the new general operating permit issued to Rains by DNR in late January contains language prohibiting equine processing, it will be a clear indication to many that Jay Nixon and (Attorney General) Chris Koster are not friends of farmers, ranchers and the agriculture business in Missouri," said Dan Erdel, another attorney representing Rains.
David Rains has said he thinks there will be a significant domestic and foreign market for his company's horse-meat products. "There's going to be a surprising domestic market, and there is an export market," he said in a June interview. "There's some interest on the zoo side, too."
If Rains and the other companies open their doors, it will be the first time horses have been slaughtered for human consumption since 2007. Congress paved the way for the resumption of horse slaughter in 2011, by lifting a ban first enacted in 2006 that barred the Agriculture Department from using federal funds to inspect any meat processing plants that slaughter horses. Plants that are not inspected by the USDA cannot ship meat across state lines, so that 2006 provision effectively ended domestic horse slaughter.
In the wake of Congress' move to lift the ban, the Humane Society and other groups quickly mounted legal challenges and began lobbying Congress for a permanent ban on horse slaughter. A federal court recently lifted an emergency injunction blocking Rains and two other companies - one in Iowa and the other in New Mexico - from processing horses for meat.
Animal-rights groups have argued that slaughtering horses is inhumane and unnecessary. But supporters say slaughter is a good end-of-life option for horses whose owners no longer need or want them. They say the ban led to an increase in abandoned and neglected horses in Missouri and elsewhere.
Rains is also waiting to receive a federal permit from the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service. A spokeswoman for the USDA did not return a message asking about the status of Rains' federal application.
Source: News-Leader by Deirdre Shesgreen