Last year, Valley Meat Co. began a process with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to convert its former cattle slaughter operation into a horse slaughterhouse. This move – made by other would-be horse slaughterhouses as well – is in response to a recent decision by Congress to lift the ban on domestic horse slaughtering. Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santo says his plant would process horse meat for Russia, Eastern Europe, Asian as well as for pet foods.
De Los Santos has also said that since his plans were made public he and his company have been victims of harassment. A newly released video has exasperated the harassment.
The video, filmed last year but released this month, shows a Valley Meat Co. worker leading a healthy horse, by rope, to a spot on the dirt road. He then strokes the horse’s nose, and neck, and says, “All you animal activists, (expletive) you,” then shoots the horse in the head.
The video, De Los Santo says, filmed the process of preparing the hose for consumption, but that the worker only posted part of the video. Per New Mexico Livestock Board law, it’s not illegal for an owner to kill a horse, and horses are considered livestock. It’s no difference as a farmer killing a pig or cow for consumption. Thus, while there have been talks about investigating the incident as animal cruelty, there’s likely no chance of the worker being charged with a form of cruelty.
But that doesn’t stop animal activists, and many others, from declaring the video as disturbing, and adding that the idea of domestic horse slaughtering is just as disturbing, and that Congress should return the ban.
The ban was instituted in 2006, but not strictly as a ban on horse slaughtering, but the ban on the use of federal money to be used toward the inspection of horses headed for slaughter. But without these inspections, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services requirement that meat undergo federal inspection prior to being distributed as food, created a significant barrier.
The ban was lifted last year.
Despite the controversy swirling around Valley Meat Co., a lawyer for the company has said that the horse slaughterhouse will be opened soon.
“As far as we know … from the Department of Justice and from the USDA, we will be ready to open in the next two weeks,” Valley Meat Company Attorney A. Blair Dunn said.
At least one activist is in favor of the slaughterhouse.
Animal-rights activist Marcy Britton said she openly supports the horse slaughterhouse because overpopulation and abandoned and wild horses leads to starvation. “Death at a slaughterhouse is instantaneous,” she said.
View the unedited video here.