New Mexico Plant Withdraws Animal Processing Application

The attorney for a New Mexico firm that previously sought approval to process horses is blaming some equine advocates for the company's livestock processing application withdrawal. Some of those advovates, however, are defending their actions.

Prior to 2007, USDA personnel carried out horsemeat inspections at U.S. horse processing plants. In 2007, Congress voted to strip the USDA of funding required to pay personnel conducting such inspections at the last two operational domestic equine processing plants. Federal funding bills continued to include language denying funding for horsemeat inspections until 2011, when Congress passed an appropriations bill that failed to contain language specifically forbidding the USDA from using federal dollars to fund horse slaughter plant inspections. Shortly after that bill became law, the New Mexico-based Valley Meat Co., LLC applied for and received a horse processing permit.

Shortly thereafter, in April 2013, the Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) brought a federal lawsuit challenging that any permit issued to Valley Meats on grounds that the USDA failed consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the processing plant's potential impact on the environment. And in December 2013, New Mexico's Attorney General Gary King filed a lawsuit asking the court to stop Valley Meats' potential horse processing operation on grounds that the firm allegedly had a poor record of complying with state environmental rules.

And, before Valley Meats could begin processing horses, Congress passed the Omnibus Bill of 2014, which again denied the USDA funds to carry out horsemeat inspections. That bill was signed into law in January, effectively eliminating U.S. horse processing again.

Valley Meats' attorney Blair Dunn said that while the firm's horse processing operation never got underway, the group considered processing cattle at the same plant. However on July 31, Dunn notified the New Mexico Secretary of the Environment that Valley Meats was withdrawing its application for a groundwater discharge renewal permit.

In his written notice, Dunn said the withdrawal was based in part on the state department of the environment hearing officer's “inability to recognize that New Mexico statutes and code only recognize livestock and do not differentiate by species." The written notice also cited Secretary of the Environment 's seven-month delay in granting a permit.

Finally the written withdraw statement cites litigation brought by some equine advocates as responsible for the firm's financial woes: “Those contributions coupled with predatory litigation designed to interfere and destroy Valley Meats' lawful business brought by the New Mexico Attorney General, HSUS, FRER, and others has led to insolvency requiring that Valley Meat Company, LLC withdraw its application and any plans for operating a livestock processing facility at this location at this time.”

Holly Gann, horse slaughter campaign manager for HSUS, believes Dunn's comments are baseless.

“This notice was filed in the state case, to which the Humane Society of the United States is not a party,” she said. “In any event, Congress voted in January to eliminate funding for inspection of horses for slaughter, thus rendering this issue moot.”

Hilary T. Wood, president and founder of FRER, said her organization acted responsibly in opposing horse processing in New Mexico and elsewhere: “Front Range Equine Rescue has always, and continues to, worked responsibly to end horse slaughter through legal action and its rescue program efforts.”

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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