The Valley Meat Company of Roswell, New Mexico, was set to open its planned horse slaughterhouse on August 5 but has run into a series of unexpected blows, including the formation of an animal-protection foundation seeking to join a federal lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups to block the planned opening of the New Mexico plant and another recently approved horse slaughterhouse in Iowa.
Valley Meat Company’s attempts to convert its cattle plant to a horse slaughterhouse ran into unexpected hurdles on Monday, the Associated Press reports, when the state denied its wastewater permit. That same day, actor Robert Redford, former Governor Bill Richardson and the New Mexico state Attorney General announced their plan to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to block a return to domestic horse slaughter.
"Horse slaughter has no place in our culture," said Redford.
The New Mexico Environment Department told Valley Meat it will not renew its lapsed discharge permit without a public hearing because of extensive comments it has received regarding the possible negative environmental impact.
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Valley Meat Company’s attorney, Blair Dunn, responded that the lack of the permit would not prevent the plant from opening as planned on August 5, but it would increase costs since the plant would have to haul its waste.
Dunn accused the state of unfairly targeting a small, family-owned business and stated that many dairies in New Mexico are operating with lapsed permits.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez expressed her strong opposition to opening the horse slaughterhouse as New Mexico Attorney General Gary King announced he has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of horse-slaughter opponents.
"Congress was right to ban the inhumane practice years ago, and it is unfathomable that the federal government is now poised to let it resume," Redford said.
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Valley Meat Company is the first meat plant to receive federal approval to slaughter horses in the United States for meat since a ban was imposed by Congress in 2006. The USDA says it was required by law to issue a "grant of inspection" to the company, because it met all federal requirements.
Horse-meat slaughterhouses were banned during the Bush administration, but on November 18, 2011, the ban was lifted by President Obama when he signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
This resulted from a government investigation that claimed the domestic ban had shifted the site of butchery of horses to Mexico and Canada, resulting in increased abuse or neglect of horses shipped beyond the reach of U.S. law, the Washington Times reported.
As part of that Act, the USDA is obliged to assign meat inspectors to any American horse-slaughter plants that might open.
An estimated 130,000 U.S. horses are shipped annually to slaughter in Canada and Mexico, according to Reuters.
After more than a year of delays and a lawsuit by Valley Meat, the Department of Agriculture in June gave the company approval to begin horse-slaughter operations. Another permit was approved a few days later for a plant in Sigourney, Iowa.
Meat from American slaughterhouses would be shipped to other countries where it is legal for human consumption and for use as zoo and other animal food.
The idea of horse slaughterhouses in the United States has opened a very divisive and heated debate as to how to humanely deal with the national horse overpopulation problem and what rescue groups have said is a rising number of neglected and starving horses as the West deals with persistent drought.
A hearing is set for August 2 on the request by the coalition of animal-protection groups for a temporary restraining order to prevent the New Mexico and Iowa plants from opening.
Source: Fox News