State District Judge Matthew Wilson delayed the opening of Valley Meat Company for an additional 10 days to allow time for testimony Jan. 13 in a lawsuit brought by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King.
King, who filed a state lawsuit in Dec. after a federal appeals court lifted an order barring Valley Meat Co. from opening, is one of several parties trying to block the company in both federal and state courts.
His lawsuit alleges that Valley Meat Co., which has been fighting to open for two years, would violate the state's water quality, food safety, and unfair business practices laws.
"We've been going through this for two years now," stated company owner Rick De Los Santos, who has spearheaded the effort to force the Department of Agriculture to permit horse slaughter plants in the U.S.
"We'll see what happens in 10 days."
Horse slaughter opponents cite the use of carcinogenic drugs in almost all equines. Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff told the judge that Valley Meat Co. would be placing horse meat into the food chain without knowing the horses' medical histories.
Valley Meat attorney Blair Dunn countered that the state lacks jurisdiction, as the horse meat would not be sold or consumed in the U.S. He told the judge the federal government has sole jurisdiction over meat shipped to international markets. He said the company is working with state environmental officials to ensure its waste is lawfully disposed of.
Horse slaughter supporters argue that it is better to slaughter horses domestically instead of shipping them to Canada or Mexico, where facilities might be less humane.
Horse slaughter was banned in Washington state on Dec. 19, 2012. Ordinance 12-106 stopped the plans of Canadian company Bouvry Exports to slaughter horses for human consumption just outside of Stanwood, WA.
Multiple animal advocacy groups, including Hope For Horses, The Humane Society, The Animal Law Coalition, Horse Harbor, PAWS, and Pasado’s Safe Haven are against the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The Animal Law Coalition also compiled 12 reasons to support the ban on horse slaughter:
1. Americans don’t want their horses to be slaughtered. Lake Research Partners conducted a recent nationwide poll confirming that 80% of Americans, regardless of gender, political affiliation, urban or rural residence, or geographic location, oppose horse slaughter for human consumption. The poll also found that the vast majority of horse owners oppose horse slaughter.
2. Most of the horses sold for slaughter are healthy and usable. Horses who are purchased for slaughter are not old, disabled, unwanted, or unusable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed a study done by Dr. Temple Grandin, which found that 92.3% of slaughter-bound horses are perfectly healthy. Instead of slaughter being a solution for “unwanted” horses, it crates a secondary market that enables poor breeding practices.
3. Horse slaughter is inhumane. Equine slaughter should not be confused with humane euthanasia. Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM and former Chief USDA Inspector, told Congress in 2008 that the captive bolt used to slaughter horses is ineffective.
Dr. Friedlander stated, “These animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck. They are fully aware that they are being vivisected.” The Government Accountability Office has confirmed that ineffective stunning is common and that animals are conscious during slaughter.
4. Horse slaughter is expensive for the American taxpayer. Approximately $5,000,000 was spent annually to subsidize three foreign-owned (Belgian and French) horse slaughterhouses operating in the U.S. until 2007. The meat was shipped overseas and there was no benefit to the American economy.
Current estimates find that $3,000,000 to $5,000,000 would be spent to subsidize private horse slaughter facilities.
5. Communities with horse slaughter plants suffer. Horse slaughter plans cause nuisance odors and chronic sewer and environmental violations. Paula Bacon, mayor of Kaufman, Texas, stated, “My community did not benefit. We paid.” A horse slaughter facility existed in Kaufman until 2007.
6. Eliminating the waste from horse slaughter plants is problematic. Antibiotics given to American horses prevent their blood from breaking down, making their blood and organs unusable for dry blood mill. Communities that have horse slaughter facilities will be required to figure out how to dispose of the blood, internal organs, and waste. This will be substantial, as horses have 1.74 times as much blood per pound of body weight as cows.
7. Horse slaughter does not help the economy. In 2007, horse slaughter plants never created more than 178 low-wage jobs. Many of these positions were held by people who had entered the U.S. illegally.
8. Incidences of horse theft increase near horse slaughter plants. Horse slaughter is demand-driven, and when California banned horse slaughter in 1998, horse theft fell by 39.5%. In the years that followed, the state found an 88% decrease in horse theft.
9. Areas with horse slaughter plants see higher crime rates. When the horse slaughter plant in Kaufman, TX closed, residents experienced a significant decrease in all crime.
10. The FDA does not regulate horses as food animals. Americans do not consume horses and other equines. Horses receive multiple medications, such as steroids, de-wormers, and ointments, throughout their lives. Kill buyers do not know a horse’s medical history.
The FDA bans the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Phenylbutazone (Bute) in all food-producing animals. Many horses have received Bute, which is a carcinogen and can cause aplastic anemia in humans.
11. It is impossible to humanely transport horses for slaughter. The 2011 GAO report confirmed that USDA/APHIS has not – and cannot – enforce humane transport regulations for equines to be sent to slaughter.
12. Horses are in danger. The welfare of all equines is threatened as long as slaughter remains available.
Updates to this story will be posted as they occur.
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