Wastewater hurdle for proposed slaughter plant

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is supporting a lawsuit against the resumption of horse slaughter operations.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is supporting a lawsuit against the resumption of horse slaughter operations.

A New Mexico company’s plans to restart the American horse slaughter industry have hit more problems, with state authorities refusing to grant a wastewater discharge permit without a public hearing.

Valley Meat Co. has been working toward opening its former cattle plant near Roswell as a horse slaughter facility, with August 5 slated as the opening date.

Its wasterwater discharge permit had lapsed, but the New Mexico Environment Department said it would not issue another without a public hearing because of the number of submissions received. There were about 450 submissions in total, the department said.

It is not anticipated the problem will delay the plant’s opening, as Valley Meat Co. still has the option of trucking its waste to an approved facility.

The company cleared a major hurdle late last month when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted the company approval for plant inspections, as required by law.

THE USDA said it had no choice but to issue the so-called grant of inspection for the plant, provided the necessary conditions were met.

Horse advocates responded with a federal lawsuit, which is scheduled to be heard on August 3, just two days before Valley Meat intends opening its horse plant.

The lawsuit has been brought by Front Range Equine Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, and a variety of other groups and individuals.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking Valley Meat Co. and several plants in other states from beginning commercial horse slaughter until the USDA undertakes a full and adequate environmental review of those operations.

Actor, director, and conservationist Robert Redford has joined with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson in seeking to join the lawsuit.

It is the first action by a new foundation set up by the pair to protect animals and wildlife.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said yesterday he had filed a motion to join the lawsuit.

King said New Mexico had a strong interest in ensuring that commercial operations within its borders were conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Bill Richardson and Robert Redford. Photo: Steve Terrell/Wikipedia
Bill Richardson and Robert Redford. Photo: Steve Terrell/Wikipedia

King had earlier voiced concerns over the routine treatment of horses with drugs that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined were unsafe for human consumption in any amount.

In an opinion letter issued last month in response to an inquiry from State Senator Richard Martinez, King noted a 2010 scientific study which revealed the widespread presence in horses destined for slaughter of the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone that the FDA determined could cause bone marrow toxicity in humans.

King’s motion also raises concerns around the additional and costly regulatory burden that commercial horse slaughter operations will likely impose on the State of New Mexico to ensure that waste discharge does not threaten area water supplies and environmental quality.

The USDA has received at least six applications for grants of inspection for horse slaughter plants. Valley Meat Co. and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa, have received approval.

Applications yet to be approved have come from Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Missouri; American Beef Company/Unified Equine in Rockville, Missouri; Trail South Meat Processing Co. in Woodbury, Tennessee; and Oklahoma Meat Co, in Washington, Oklahoma.



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2 thoughts on “Wastewater hurdle for proposed slaughter plant

  • July 25, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Horse slaughter is a highly expensive proposition for taxpayers.

    Each plant will cost taxpayers $400,000.00, according to this press release, for inspections. This issue crosses all party lines. Voters and politicians from all sides of the isle are against horse slaughter for a laundry list of reasons.

    This is the worst economy since the Great Depression. In addition to the cost of the USDA inspecting plants, at a price tag of $400,000.00 per plant to U.S. taxpayers, the meat will not even be eaten in the U.S. Why should we, as American taxpayers, pay for these inspections?

    Additionally, we have to factor in the taxpayer expense of police officers who will likely be taking more reports on horse theft and making more investigations into horse theft.

    As a horse owner, the thought of horse theft and stolen horses ending up at slaughter concerns me greatly. I would hope that it would concern you, too. Many people think of their horses as family members.

  • July 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I am also against the USDA opening up inspections for the proposed horse slaughter plants in the United States because horses in the U.S. are not raised for human consumption. As a grower of corn, wheat and soybeans, having the USDA inspect horse slaughter plants concerns me as well.

    Horses are our friends and companions (at least they are my friends and companions), and as such they are treated with drugs like cats and dogs to a wide variety of vaccinations, bacterins, topical and oral treatments that are not approved for human consumption. We use gloves with topical treatments, because we don’t want equine drugs touching our skin, let alone consuming them.

    It’s not economical to raise horses for slaughter in the U.S., because it takes more money to raise a foal to maturity than the horse meat market is willing to pay. It’s an economical losing proposition. Therefore, the USDA has no business inspecting a horse slaughter plant that by default will be receiving horses that are not fit for human consumption.

    As a grower of corn, wheat and soybeans, the USDA’s reputation directly affects many. The European Union, which is where most of the horse meat would go, has a zero tolerance for Bute (Phenylbutazone) , which is routinely given to horses in the U.S. It is estimated that 90% of horses in the U.S. have been treated with this drug, not to mention all of the other drugs.

    There is no good way to test for all of these drugs on every horse destined for slaughter, which would need to be done, since they are not raised for human consumption in the U.S. Many tests would need to be run on each horse, and there is no way to do this in a timely fashion, especially given that the tests have to be run after the horse is dead, and that autopsies need to be performed within 24 hours.

    Most of the horses destined for slaughter are young or middle-aged, and in the prime of their lives. Two that have been rescued from slaughter have gone on and are now showing at the Morgan Grand National level.


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