An employee of a New Mexico slaughterhouse that wants to begin slaughtering horses is being investigated for animal cruelty, after he posted a video of himself shooting a healthy horse in the head.
In the video, Tim Sappington, 54, the sole employee of Valley Meat Company in Roswell, MN, taunted animal welfare advocates before putting a gun to a horse's forehead and firing. The horse falls to the ground and suffers several spasms, while Sappington drops the halter lead rope and walks away, apparently unconcerned for the animal's suffering.
Sappington later posted the video on YouTube, with the obvious intent of upsetting animal welfare advocates who oppose horse slaughter. Valley Meat Company recently sued the USDA, in an effort to force the department to resume inspections of horse slaughter facilities, such as Valley Meat. Those inspections are all that stand in the way of Valley Meat Co. and other horse slaughterhouses from resuming their grisly trade.
Now Sappington may face charges of animal cruelty, said Bobby Pierce, the deputy director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, an Albuquerque-based law enforcement agency.
“It’s extreme cruelty, a penalty, to maliciously kill an animal,” said Pierce.
Pierce said he believes charges will probably result from the investigation, which began today. Although Sappington claims he executed the horse with the intent to eat it, in the video, that intent is not clear.
In the video, Sappington looks directly at the camera, and says, "To all you animal activists... f-k you!". He then calmly removes his gun from a side holster, and shoots the unsuspecting horse.
As the horse spasms, Sappington walks out of the frame and is not seen to return before the video ends. He does not check on the horse's condition before he leaves.
“We’re horrified by the video, and we are glad to hear that there’s an investigation going on,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the U.S. in Washington. “It appears this was made for publicity’s sake and to taunt animal lovers.”
Valley Meat Co. is seeking to become the first company to run a horse-slaughter plant in the U.S. since 2007. Valley Meat issued a statement this evening in which the company stated, in part:
"The emotion of the situation is what is most troubling especially since the opposition is now resorting to terrorist tactics by calling in bomb threats and death threats against our families. And while Mr. Sappington's personal comments are inappropriate they pale in comparison to threatening to bomb people and kill their families. We respectfully request that the media and the public remember that we are discussing the processing of horses as livestock and no animal is worth threatening or ending a person's life."
There has been no confirmation from law enforcement officials that death threats or bomb threats were made against the company or the owners.
Valley Meat Co. also said it is evaluating Sappington’s continued employment.