Valley Meat Company, which sought to open a horse slaughter plant in Roswell, New Mexico, says it has fallen victim to long delays in decision-making and “predatory litigation”.
Its counsel, Blair Dunn, has formally withdrawn the plant’s application for a permit to operate a waste-water discharge lagoon. He did so in a letter on Thursday to the state Environmental Department.
Dunn wrote that the withdrawal was “due to the inability of the New Mexico Environment Department’s hearing officer to recognize that New Mexico Statutes and Code only recognize livestock and do not differentiate by species”.
He claimed the misuse of the hearing officer’s report by the Attorney General in a district court proceeding, coupled with the arbitrary delay of almost seven months by the Environment Secretary in not making a decision, had “contributed to the destruction of Valley’s lawful business”.
He also claimed the company was the victim of predatory litigation brought by the New Mexico Attorney General, the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, and others. It had led to insolvency requiring the withdrawal of the application and the end of any plans at this time to operate a livestock processing plant at the site, Dunn said.
The Equine Welfare Alliance said the letter appeared to mark the end of plans to reopen the former cattle slaughterhouse to slaughter horses.
It said it came only a week before the final report of the hearing officer was to be released.
Alliance president John Holland noted Valley Meat’s assertion about predatory litigation, but commented: “In reality, the plant faced strong opposition from the state level all the way to the Obama Administration, where Vice-President Biden and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack had strongly opposed the return of plants to the US.”
The plan to reopen the plant to slaughter horses had started in 2011, after congressional reinstatement of US Department of Agriculture funding for required horse inspections.
However, since the consent hearing in October of 2013, it has faced setbacks.
In January, the omnibus budget had restored the prohibition on spending for inspections, and the 2015 appropriations bills in the Senate and House have continued that prohibition.
The battle over the issuance of the required permit was one of several legal struggles facing the plant. Additionally, the hearing officer had indicated that she intended to recommend against the permit.
At the time Valley Meats announced its plan to slaughter horses it had been one of five plants with such plans. With the withdrawal of its application, Valley Meats appeared to be the last to give up.
The last three horse slaughter plants in the US closed in 2007, but horses have continued to go to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Almost 153,000 horses were exported to slaughter last year.