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January 7, 2014

New Mexico Slaughter Plant Opening Delayed Again

Concern that horses receive drugs or products humans shouldn't ingest is just one factor in the continuing debate over horse slaughter. Photo by Lisa Slade.

New Mexico State District Judge Matthew Wilson extended a temporary ban on horse slaughter in the state by 10 more days on Jan. 3. The ban will remain in place so Wilson can hear testimony on Jan. 13 in a lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King. King is attempting to block Valley Meats Co. from opening a plant in the state on the basis that the plant would violate the state’s food safety and water quality laws.

In response, Valley Meat Co. announced Jan. 6 that they plan to file suit against King for slander, harassment, conspiracy and abuse of process after King’s suit against the slaughterhouse delayed its opening date, reported Reuters.

The Humane Society of the United States has cited concerns about the negative affect equine drugs could have on human health, a concern shared by King since horses are not raised for human consumption.

However, Valley Meat Co. attorney A. Blair Dunn argued that his client would remove horses from any drugs and allow them time to flush the substances from their systems.

The proposed plant in Roswell, N.M., would process 120 horses a day before shipping the meat overseas, where horsemeat is consumed, or to zoos within the United States. In his clients’ defense, Dunn asserted that the company would purchase unwanted horses that would be shipped to Mexico for processing anyway.

“He defamed a whole product and a whole industry,” Reuters reported Dunn said of King. “My clients are not horrible environmental actors like he’s trying to claim.”

Slaughter appeared cleared to begin again in the United States, for the first time since 2007, after the Federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver on Dec. 14 lifted the emergency ban barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from conducting inspections on slaughter plants in three states—Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico—because the animal rights groups “failed to meet their burden for an injunction.”