While Europe recovers from its recent horsemeat scandal, here in the U.S. concerns are heating up over the opening of the nation's first horse slaughterhouse in more than six years.
Roswell, New Mexico's Valley Meat Company could become the first active horse slaughter operation since a federal ban on the facilities. The facility's owner, Rick De Los Santos sued the USDA last year over what he claimed was a stalled review of his application to begin operation. He says the agency was acquiescing to public pressure, which cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to the Los Angeles Times, activists are preparing for "a public-relations battle" if the government gives Valley Meat a permit. “This is going to happen and we need to stop it for so many reasons -- moral, healthwise, economic, the whole ball of wax,” animal advocate Yvette Dobbie told the Times. “If they move ahead and open this plant, there will be a huge protest presence at that facility.”
The USDA just inspected the facility last week and unless Congress takes specific action, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says the facility open soon, “We are going to do this, and I would imagine that it would be done relatively soon,” he told the Associated Press. “It will open unless Congress restores the ban on horse slaughter that they had in place. If that doesn't happen, then we are duty-bound to do what needs to be done to allow that plant to begin processing.”
New Mexico Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, sent a letter to Vilsack, saying “it saddens me that thousands of horses, a majestic fixture of the American West, could be methodically and inhumanely put to death in my home state.” The Times also notes that the facility was cited in the past for a number of violations including failing to provide humane handling of animals.
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