Governor Against N.M. Horse Processing Plant Inspections

While the owner of a New Mexico meat processing plant awaits USDA approval to begin processing horses for human consumption, that state's governor says she will ask the agency to deny placement of federal inspectors at the plant.

In 2007 a combination of legislation and court rulings shuttered the last remaining horse slaughter plants in the United States. Domestic horse processing became possible again in November when Congress passed an appropriations bill restoring revenue for USDA horsemeat inspections.

In December 2011 Rick De Los Santos, owner of Valley Meat Co. LLC, submitted an application requesting the placement of USDA personnel to carry out horsemeat inspections at his Roswell plant. In March USDA personnel conducted an application-related tour of the Valley Meat plant, De Los Santos said. A follow-up tour was slated for early April, but De Los Santos said he postponed it until work to retrofit the plant specifically for horse processing was completed. De Los Santos said if the USDA grants his application, horse processing at the Valley Meat plant could begin shortly. Products derived from the facility would be sold to a client in Mexico, he said.

While De Los Santos' USDA application is pending, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced she would send a letter to USDA administrators requesting they deny De Los Santos' application. Martinez' spokesman Scott Darnell said Martinez has not yet sent the letter to the USDA; however, Darnell provided with Martinez' written statement opposing horse processing in New Mexico.

"A horse's companionship is a way of life for many people across New Mexico," the statement read. "We rely on them for work and bond with them through their loyalty. Despite the federal government's decision to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption, I believe creating a horse slaughter industry in New Mexico is wrong, and I am strongly opposed."

De Los Santos said he is aware of Martinez' opposition to horse processing in the state, but has not heard from the governor directly.

"She has not called me (about it)," he said. "You'd think she would at least call and ask 'What are your plans?' "

Since Congress restored funding for horse processing plant inspections, plants have been proposed for development in Oregon and Missouri; no horse processing facilities are operating in the United States currently. If approved, the Valley Meat facility would be the first to process horses in the country since the funding ban was lifted.

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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