Roswell horse slaughter plant to open Jan. 1

Posted at: 12/18/2013 5:28 PM
Updated at: 12/18/2013 6:47 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

After a nearly two-year battle, a horse slaughter plant near Roswell is preparing to open. The plant will slaughter horses for human consumption.

Owner Rick De Los Santos says he's ready to open Valley Meat Company.

He said 15 employees are ready to work and the plant has 20 horses from Nevada for slaughter.

"We're going to start off really slow, to get the training and process out of the way to make sure everything is in order," De Los Santos said.

He said he's already got contracts lined up.

"Our main contract is horses going to Belgium, and then we've got contracts from Russia and China. I've got a big solid contract in China. There's no way this plant could slaughter enough horses to supply all those contracts," De Los Santos said.

The first horsemeat will be shipped to Belgium. De Los Santos said under the current contract, he would make $350 per horse.

"Once we get up to full speed, we're going to do 100-120 a day," he said.

The plant will have 24 hour armed security. The front gates will always be closed with a security guard monitoring who comes in or out and another guard surveying the property.

"The whole time that we have personnel out here, we have to have guards. USDA has to be protected, you know we're a federal facility," De Los Santos said.

Animal rights groups have fought the controversial plant every step of the way and have vowed to continue the fight. De Los Santos said other people continue to call with threats.

"People are calling in and leaving messages: if you kill a horse, your dead. Threats like that, those are real threats. And so the FBI has gotten involved and they're following leads," he said.

The plant is set to open Jan. 1. Valley Meat and a plant in Missouri are able to open after a federal appeals court lifted an emergency ban on Friday. 

The Humane Society said they will continue to fight the horse slaughter plants.