Update July 22, 2013: Robert Redford and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have joined the lawsuit filed by humane organizations to challenge the USDA permit issued to Valle Meat Co. LLC in Roswell, New Mexico to slaughter horses for human consumption. They have joined through their new animal protection foundation, Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife. Also, New Mexico Attorney GEneral Gary King filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of the plaintiff opponents of horse slaughter. An August 2, 2013 hearing is set for a temporary restraining order requested by the plaintiffs. For more on the case and efforts by New Mexico authorities to shut down this proposed horse slaughter facility, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.
The New Mexico Environment Department has said the VAlley Meat Co.’s discharge permit will not be renewed without a public hearing. The lack of a discharge permit would prevent the company from dumping the waste on site.
Original report: Both the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved defunding of required antemortem horse inspections; the inspections are required for horses to be slaughtered commercially for human consumption. Without funding, there can be no inspections, and without inspections, horses cannot be legally slaughtered for human consumption. If the defunding becomes law, horse slaughter for human consumption will be illegal once again in the U.S.
In the meantime, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved an inspection permit for horse slaughter at Valley Meat Co. LLC in Roswell, New Mexico. This despite that it was the Obama administration’s USDA budget that called for defunding of horse inspections for FY 2014. This despite that New Mexico state officials have voiced strong opposition to horse slaughter including the state Attorney General who has said “state law does not allow for production of [horse]meat that is chemically tainted” and “horse meat from U.S. horses would [be an illegal] adulterated food product”.
Similar applications are pending for Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, Mo., and Responsible Transportation LLC in Sigourney, IA, and have recently been approved by USDA.
The USDA has not yet assigned inspectors to the New Mexico facility, and the company’s attorney, Blair Dunn, told Huffington Post that the USDA has been “dragging their feet” and his client is not “holding their breath” that inspectors will be assigned anytime soon.
This week in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow horse slaughter facilities to resume operating on U.S. soil, animal protection organizations have filed suit against the agency and asked for an immediate injunction. The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom and five private individuals are suing under the National Environmental Protection Act, due to the agency’s failure to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate.
Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said: “The USDA has failed to consider the basic fact that horses are not raised as a food animal. Horse owners provide their horses with a number of substances dangerous to human health. To blatantly ignore this fact jeopardizes human health as well as the environment surrounding a horse slaughter plant. The negative consequences of horse slaughter will be felt immediately and over the long term if allowed to resume in the U.S. America’s horses are not food.”
The environmental devastation from horse slaughter is well known. The food safety risks have been documented in a study relied on by the New Mexico Attorney General in reaching his decision that products of horse slaughter are not safe for human consumption and illegal under state law.