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shell company, through which they applied for the very same permits to conduct commercial horse slaughter that they had withdrawn only a few weeks earlier.”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]
MONTH / yEAR