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
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
MONTH / yEAR