NM Attorney General joins opposition to horse slaughter plant, defenders say he’s ‘grandstanding’ UPDATE: NM Environment Dept weighs in

By Rob Nikolewski on July 22, 2013
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The battle over the first horsemeat processing plant in the U.S. in seven years is heating up, with a court hearing in Albuquerque fast approaching.

The facility in Roswell is scheduled to open in two weeks but in the latest development, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has joined a lawsuit trying to stop the slaughterhouse  from opening its doors — something a lawyer for the plant dismissed as “political grandstanding.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reluctantly granted approval to the Valley Meat Co. to convert its cattle facility into a horse processing plant, prompting a number of animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States to seek a federal court injunction to keep the plant from opening.

EQUINE QUARREL: The first horse processing plant in the US in seven years is scheduled to open Aug. 5 but opponents want a federal judge to intervene.

EQUINE QUARREL: The first horse processing plant in the US in seven years is scheduled to open Aug. 5 but opponents want a federal judge to intervene.

Attorney General King filed a motion last Friday saying the state wants to ensure that “commercial operations within its borders are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”  Last month in a legal analysis, King said “state law does not allow for production of meat that is chemically tainted under federal regulations.”

Part of the argument by opponents claims that the meat may contain chemicals that could harm people who eat it.

“Legally, the AG’s office is in left field,” Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat Co., told New Mexico Watchdog on Monday (July 22). “It’s just not the threat he’s purporting it to be. This is a publicity stunt. It has to do with run for governor. Coming from his agricultural background, he should know better … There is not an issue with food safety.”

A spokesman for King said he had no comment about Dunn’s remarks but in a news release, King cited a study saying the Food and Drug Administration that “indicates a serious gap in food safety and constitutes a significant public health risk.”

Update 9:57 p.m. The New Mexico Environment Department added another roadblock for Valley Meat Co. late Monday by declining a request to renew the firm’s wastewater discharge permit.

From KRWG in Las Cruces:

The NMED says it won’t renew the permit without a public hearing, noting it has received more than 450 comments against letting the former cattle slaughterhouse open as a horse slaughter plant.

Valley Meat Co. attorney Blair Dunn cried foul, saying the agency was unfairly targeting a small family-owned business. He says the plant can still open, but would have to haul its waste.

The processing plant has ignited passions and divided ranchers, farmers, animal lovers and everyday citizens in New Mexico.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has opposed it, saying that “horses are a part of our culture.”

On Monday (July 22), former Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, along with actor Robert Redford, announced the formation of a nonprofit that is joining the lawsuit against the facility. Richardson said he’d do “whatever it takes to stop the return of horse slaughterhouses in this country and, in particular, my own state.”

Supporters of the plant say that given the rising cost of hay, horses have been abandoned and left to starve in the Southwest and maintain it’s better to have unwanted and dying horses killed in a federally-inspected facility than have them sent to plants in places like Mexico, where they often meet gruesome deaths in unsanitary conditions.

“Which would you rather do, put them down in a humane fashion or let them starve to death,” Dunn said.

“Horse slaughter has no place in our culture,” Redford said in a statement. “It is cruel, inhumane, and perpetuates abuse and neglect of these beloved animals.”

The plant is scheduled to open on Aug. 5 but the hearing in federal court about the injunction is set for Aug. 2 in Albuquerque before Judge M. Christina Armijo.

Since giving the Roswell plant the OK, the USDA also recently granted approval for a horse slaughter facility in Iowa and is poised to approve one in Missouri.

Dunn says he’ll ask for $25 million at the Aug. 2 hearing, as bond ”to cover potential lost revenue” to the facilities should they be delayed in opening for business.

How did the situation arise?

Back in 2006, a prohibition was placed in the U.S. preventing horse slaughter and the last plant was closed in 2007. But in 2011, Congress quietly removed the rider enforcing the ban from an omnibus spending act.

Attorneys for Valley Meat took the USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service to court and forced their hand. Earlier this year, the USDA said it “is legally required to issue a grant of inspection” even though the Obama administration has also come out against lifting the ban.

“Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law,” USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe told Associated Press June 28.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rob@nmwatchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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9 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. stormy
    7:13 pm on July 22nd, 2013

    I just fear that this will open up a new excuse to killing off more mustangs. Already, the government is killing them off for no reason, other than greediness in wanting to use their grazing lands. The lame excuses they use for killing them are unfounded. Opening a slaughterhouse, it will just give them more reason to do more killing.

  2. Brenda Tyrrell
    8:01 pm on July 22nd, 2013

    “Dunn says he’ll ask for $25 million at the Aug. 2 hearing, as bond ”to cover potential lost revenue” to the facilities should they be delayed in opening for business.”

    Of course he will, because horse slaughter has nothing to do with equine welfare and everything to do with making a buck any way you can. Also, in 2011, 3 rogue senators, Blunt, Kingston & Kohl removed the language to defund horse meat inspections at the last minute.

    “Which would you rather do, put them down in a humane fashion or let them starve to death,” Dunn said. Horse slaughter will not prevent abuse, neglect, or starvation and it isn’t humane. The majority of American people support a ban on horse slaughter because they know the facts. The reasons why horse slaughter plants closed in the US are the same reasons why they should not reopen on US soil. To try all over again and expect a different result is the definition of insanity.

  3. Tanya Brinkman
    8:28 pm on July 22nd, 2013

    This slaughter is justified because it is a humane way of dealing with the population of homeless horses? If that is true, does this idiot also advocate the slaughter of our homeless dogs and cats and the sale of their carcasses to foreign countries for food? Give me a break. These meat companies are greedy and they need to be shut down.

  4. Casey
    9:10 pm on July 22nd, 2013

    In a seperate issue that none of the big city news sources are covering, King’s so-called Gary King Animal Cruelty Task Force, is being sued for recklessly destroying thousands of roosters, chickens and eggs at rural ranches. In the lawsuit the ranchers claim that the task force destroyed the animals on the possibility that they might be used for fighting, not because of any direct evidence that they were. http://elpasotimes.typepad.com/newmexico/2013/07/vet-board-reeks-of-secrecy.html

  5. Brandy
    11:16 am on July 23rd, 2013

    King is a hypocrite. Killing roosters, stomping large numbers of eggs from under the nesting hens, and then killing the hens too is OK as long as it is not a horse? Animal activists need to be consistent. You can’t give Gary King a pass on his animal rights task force he heads up approving the senseless slaughter of one animal quietly behind the scenes, just because he claims to care in the case of horses when the cameras are rolling.

  6. Cynthia
    11:55 am on July 24th, 2013

    First, Mr. Dunne, pet foods in America cannot use horsemeat as it was Federally banned so why would you want to sell killer horsemeat to people overseas to kill their pets. Its not the other countries horses that are in question, it’s America’s horses. As for the wildly over blown stats on the numbers of unwanted horses-I would like to remind you they buy those horses while competing against real buyers, it plays out in the news everyday, they hike the prices up so rescues and places cant afford to buy them to play a game of keep away. They also manipulate people to get their horses buying from ads using their kids and grandkids to help convince the owner the horse is going to a good home. All old tricks but being used deceptively once again. As for the family man being singled out, when you are a pioneer in a really unwanted business you are the first in line to answer to everything-he lined up at the head of the line for the cash machine and the drawer closed, so now you are angry? Really? This IS the same family man who has two felonies for which the government is not to issue a permit to him over but did, is this the same man who is hiding who his investors are and its rumored the major is in partnership with him, interesting, why is he the only visible face in this mirage?? As for the lack of money he has earned, first you are projecting possible sales which you have no way to verify what his actual income would be. Second the issue of the grandstanding, is it just possible NO ONE REALLY worth their salt wants to invite tons of felons to run around their state bringing bloody, injured because of them, animals loaded with drugs that the FSIS who is in bed with pro-slaughter activists Sue Wallis is now claiming they will test foR. In the past they only tested 1 percent of the horses for bute 1 percent of the meat, that’s 99 percent to slip through the cracks to be injurious to people all over the world including here. Really? Why should you demand 25 million dollars? Whether he has orders or not, its about supply and demand and guess what you were not up and running and have not obtained any actual orders you were in the middle of processing and was damaged because of shut down, in fact, you have not even opened. What if you do open and a week later they don’t like the taste of the drug riddled half starved horse steaks you going to sue the government too, or the horse industry for not providing better half dead horses? Just wondering! Also Mr. Dunne, will you be the one defending Ms. Santos when the lawsuits regarding the illnesses and deaths, as well as the cancer treatments come rolling in, we do want to know whom to file against when people come down with illnesses, you in such a hurry to make money-we should be in a hurry to collect ours back when we find horse meat hidden in our food chain or our pets start dying from hidden horse meat, which again killed thousands of pets. I saw pro-slaughter changed Wikipedia-it still doesn’t change the fact it killed thousands of pets. They should all sit down and have dinner, I have some bute, maybe you can demonstrate how tasty and safe this product is, would you prefer pills or paste?

  7. Cynthia
    11:57 am on July 24th, 2013

    Oh I do have one question is the 25 million so that 12.5 million can be donated to rescues to keep horses out of the slaughter plants MR. DUNNE is that your plan?????? I mean you keep demanding someone do something about the horses, is that your contribution?

  8. Judy
    1:17 pm on July 24th, 2013

    Why are there so many horses loose in the SW? Because the horses heading to Mexico to get slaughtered are sometimes refused at the border. And what do they do with horses that are refused at the border? They turn them loose. It would cost too much time and money for them to keep them penned up, fix what’s wrong if they can, then load them on another truck. It’s all about $ and NOTHING else. Horse slaughter never has been and will never be humane.

  9. Steve
    12:14 am on July 27th, 2013

    Really? All this emotion and attention to something hardly worth noting. The government entities gave their OK, but now AG King and others want to stop this slaughter house from opening. The same AG who refused to prosecute voter fraud.
    Why not care about our children having to pay back the $17 trillion the US has borrowed?
    Why not care about the 50 million Americans killed by abortion?
    Why not care about the IRS persecuting the administration’s political enemies?
    Why not care about something truly important.

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