Governor says she has no legal power to stop horse slaughterhouse

Posted at: 03/26/2013 5:31 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Gov. Susana Martinez says she lacks the legal power to stop a slaughterhouse for horses near Roswell but opponents of the business insist she does.

At the heart of the dispute is Valley Meat Co., an outfit that wants to start killing and butchering horses for meat a few miles outside the city limits of Roswell in Chaves County.

The meat would be sold in European and Asian countries where it is a regular part of the traditional cuisine.

The company’s owners say they expect to be in business by the end of April, with permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gov. Martinez has opposed the slaughterhouse plan for at least a year, but says she can’t stop it.

“The authorization comes from the United States government to give permission for that slaughterhouse,” Martinez said Tuesday. “I have no power or authority to interfere with that, so I cannot sign an executive order. I have no authority to do so.”

But slaughterhouse opponents like horse owner Nancy Henry of Albuquerque insist she does have the power and ought to use it.

“There exists the potential for hazards to the New Mexico public, the environmental justice, the environment, and the safety and welfare of all these horses,” Henry said.

“No,” Martinez said. “The law does not permit me to sign an executive order to prohibit the slaughterhouse.”

The slaughterhouse opponents are relying on a state law that gives the governor the power to declare public health emergencies. Whether that applies to slaughterhouses may be an issue for the courts to decide.

If the slaughterhouse opens it will be the first one in operation since 2006, when Congress blocked the controversial business. The block was removed last fall when President Obama signed a farm appropriation bill.