USDA approves NM horse slaughterhouse

Posted at: 06/28/2013 6:53 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It’s been a controversial issue for more than a year, ever since Valley Meat Company asked for permission to slaughter horses.

Friday, the USDA approved the company’s application for the plant near Roswell, but their fight may not be over yet.    

After a year of waiting for final approval from the United States Department of Agriculture, federal officials have given Valley Meat Company the green light. That means the company in Chaves County could soon be the first in the nation to process horses into meat.

"I think it's a good idea. If you've ever watched anything starve to death out in the middle of a pasture, it’s cruel and unusual punishment.  I think it’s a lot better that they have somewhere to go," said one Roswell resident that approves slaughtering horses.

“It’s sad.  Very, very sad,” said another Roswell resident that is against the slaughterhouse.

The opinion is divided from horse owners on both sides of the aisle.

 Mark Allen, owner of the Kentucky Derby winning horse ‘Mine that Bird’ weighed in.

"I'm not for slaughtering horses," said Allen.

He won’t be taking his horses to slaughter.

"None of my horses will be put down. If they’re just running them in there for good meat, I'm not for it," said Allen.

Valley Meat Company plans to begin slaughtering horses in just a few weeks, hoping to hire 40 to 100 new employees.

But the company’s attorney, Blair Dunn, tells us that further lawsuits could prevent that from happening.    

The Humane Society and Front Range Equine Rescue are both suing to try and block the plant from opening. 

The USDA still has to inspect the plant one more time before it can open.

Congress banned horse slaughter in the U.S. seven years ago, but lawmakers got rid of the ban in 2011.

Valley Meat Company applied to open a slaughterhouse in 2012.  The company has been waiting for approval since then.

Six months ago, Valley Meat sued the USDA saying they were intentionally delaying the process.

Friday, the USDA granted the application.

The USDA said it plans to grant similar permits to slaughterhouses in Iowa and Missouri, but those horse slaughterhouses may not last long.

The Obama Administration strongly opposes them.  The president’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year eliminates funding for inspections. That would effectively reinstate a ban on the industry.  But at this point Congress has not passed anything that would get rid of the funding.  So, the USDA said it was obligated to approve Valley Meat Company’s application. 

KOB Eyewitness News 4 will continue to follow all of the latest developments with the horse slaughterhouse up to the day it opens.