The Navajo Nation made a surprising move this week when it sent a letter to federal officials stating that it supports a New Mexico company’s plan to begin slaughtering horses and exporting their meat as soon as next week.
Valley Meat Company in Roswell, N.M., ran into a major hurdle last week when a group of former high-level government officials joined the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-advocacy groups in opposing the issuance of the a USDA “grant of inspection” to the company.
Actor Robert Redford and former Gov. Bill Richardson had stated they were "standing with Native American leaders" to protect cultural values, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
However, Erny Zah, speaking on behalf of Navajo President Ben Shelly, said Wednesday that Navajo Nation, the country’s largest Indian reservation “can no longer support the estimated 75,000 feral horses that are drinking wells dry and causing ecological damage to the drought-stricken range,” the Tribune reports.
This issue is especially sensitive because horses are considered sacred animals.
“At the same time we have a bunch of horses that no one is caring for — so it’s a delicate balance," Sah said.
Zah added that the horse overpopulation is so acute that the tribe is already rounding up and selling wild horses, and some end up being shipped to Mexico.
A lot of the emotional divisiveness surrounding a return to domestic horse slaughter and slaughterhouses lies in the argument that it is more humane to kill them in the United States under conditions of USDA inspection than to ship the animals — many of which are unhealthy and starving — to plants in Mexico and Canada for slaughter under unregulated and often cruel circumstances.
The National Congress of American Indians, which represents tribes across the country, is also lobbying in support of Valley Meat Co., saying overgrazing by feral horses is causing serious environmental and ecological damage, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
On Monday, the Valley Meat Company and a recently approved horse slaughterhouse in Iowa are scheduled to become the first facilities in the country to legally slaughter horses since a Congressional ban that was lifted in 2011 by President Barack Obama when he signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
Valley Meat Company believes it was targeted by arsonists during the weekend when its refrigeration system was damaged by fire. Owner Rick De Los Santos said he will not know until Friday whether it can be fixed by Monday.
Source: St. Louis Tribune