Attorney Threatens to Sue N.M. Attorney General

The Valley Meat Co., fired the latest volley in the battle surrounding the opening of a horse processing plant in Roswell, N.M., this week when it sued New Mexico Attorney General Gary King for slander.

Horse slaughter has not taken place in the United States since 2007 when court rulings and legislation shuttered the last domestic processing plants. Prior to 2007, USDA personnel carried out inspections at horse processing plants until Congress voted to strip the USDA of funds to pay personnel conducting those inspections. In 2011, legislation reinstated USDA funding for U.S. horse processing plants and, in June 2013, Valley Meats Co. LLC in Roswell, N.M., received FSIS permit, which allows placement of personnel at the plant to carry out horsemeat inspections.

On Dec. 19, 2013, King filed a lawsuit in District Court in Santa Fe County seeking a temporary restraining order and an injunction against Valley Meats, preventing the firm from launching operations on Jan. 1 on grounds that the firm allegedly has a poor record of complying with state environmental rules. On Jan. 3 Judge Matthew Wilson extended hearing on the case to Jan. 13 in order to hear arguments from both sides.

On Jan. 6, Atty. Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meats, sent a letter to the N.M. Department of General Services, Risk Management Division, announcing his intention to sue King for slander, libel, civil conspiracy, harassment, and malicious abuse of process.

“Mr. King’s conduct in this regard is ongoing and on top of damages for the harm perpetrated under these torts, we will be seeking equitable relief,” Dunn's letter said.

Rocky Unruh, of the Schiff Hardin law firm, responded by announcing the filing of his own motion to intervene "on behalf of four Roswell residents and Front Range Equine Rescue," his letter said.

Meanwhile, Phil Sisneros, King's director of communications, said the attorney general remains strongly against horse slaughter in New Mexico.

“It appears that this action by Mr. Dunn is simply an attempt to intimidate Attorney General King for acting to protect the state's interests,” Sisneros said.

The slander case remains pending.

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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