New Mexico AG takes Valley Meat to court
by Meat&Poultry Staff
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM, from slaughtering horses. King talked about the lawsuit during a news conference, saying horse slaughter put consumers' health and natural resources at risk.
“Valley Meat Company’s record of violating the state’s laws regarding food, water quality, and unfair business practices, poses serious dangers to public health and safety, to the natural environment, and to the public’s use and enjoyment of public resources, namely groundwater and land,” King said.
Ricardo De Los Santos, owner of Valley Meat Co., has been trying to re-open his former beef slaughter facility to process horse meat. Congress lifted a six-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections partly because of the recession, which began just as horse slaughter stopped. Since then, interest in horse slaughter and processing horse meat has increased along with animal interest groups' efforts to stop it.
“Front Range Equine Rescue applauds the lawsuit filed by the NM Attorney General's office to protect consumers from the dangers of horse meat," the group said in a statement. "Along with the brutal way in which horses are slaughtered, Front Range Equine Rescue has highlighted the dangers of processing and selling horse meat which harms the environment, consumers, and local communities where horse slaughter plants operate. Front Range fully supports an injunction to prevent Valley Meat in Roswell from opening based on the well-documented damage created by former US horse slaughter plants.”
King issued in June a legal opinion on the safety of horse meat for human consumption at the request of a state legislator who expressed concern Valley Meat would be operating in the state illegally. In his opinion, King said drugs used to treat horses renders the meat adulterated and therefore unfit for human consumption or sale in New Mexico. King added that Valley Meat’s track record of compliance with environmental and safety laws were cause for concern.
“Our environmental laws are on the books to protect precious natural resources, especially ground water,” King said. “Companies that willfully ignore those laws need to be held to account before they cause serious damage to public health or our environment.
“Commercial horse slaughter is completely at odds with our traditions and our values as New Mexicans. It also poses a tangible risk to consumers and to our environment. I will continue to fight on behalf of the health and well-being of New Mexicans and the protection of our groundwater and other natural resources.”
The US Department of Agriculture issued grants of inspection to Sigourney, Iowa-based Responsible Transportation LLC, Rains Natural Meats in Missouri and Valley Meat Co. In August, Keaton Walker, president of Responsible Transportation, dropped plans to slaughter horses because of the delays caused by litigation.