Family gives up on horse-slaughter plant in New Mexico

By Milan Simonich / Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Posted: 08/14/2012 01:45:07 PM MDT SANTA FE – A family business in the Roswell area has suspended its plan to slaughter horses for human consumption in foreign markets, its attorney said today. Valley Meat Co. has received no response from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its application to slaughter horses and process the meat, said A. Blair Dunn, the attorney who represents the business. It had been pursuing federal approval since April. Blair said the De Los Santos family, owner of Valley Meat Co., has no choice but to restart its cattle-slaughter business. That business was in abeyance while the family sought federal approval for its equine slaughter and processing operation. “They’re suspending any plans for the horse-slaughter plant,” Dunn said in an interview. “It doesn’t look like anybody is going to get a grant of inspection for horse slaughter.” A meat-processing plant cannot slaughter both cattle and horses simultaneously, Dunn said. Given what he called inaction by the federal government, the family has no choice but to resume its cattle-processing business to make a living, he said. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, was among the officeholders who opposed the horse-slaughter plant. State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, a Democrat and a veterinarian, also was against horse slaughter in New Mexico. But people in the horse industry disagreed with opponents of the plant, saying there was no logical reason to fight the De Los Santos family’s business venture. “Horses deserve better than to be abandoned, starved or transported long distances in crowded trucks to slaughter in foreign countries,” the New Mexico Horse Council’s president, Rusty Cook, said in a letter to the governor. His organization represents about 30 horse clubs. The De Los Santos family had to retrofit its 7,000-square-foot plant to prepare for the slaughter and processing of horses. Dunn said the family saw Europe as its primary market for horse meat. Horse slaughter has been a dormant industry in the United States. That was because Congress in 2006 did not fund the required USDA inspections of horses that would be killed for human consumption. The federal policy changed last year. Congress funded the inspections in an agriculture bill that President Obama signed. Still, in a practical sense, nothing was different for the De Los Santos family, which could not obtain its grant of inspection, despite a persistent effort, Dunn said.