A New Mexico company’s plans to restart the American horse slaughter industry have hit more problems, with state authorities refusing to grant a wastewater discharge permit without a public hearing.
Valley Meat Co. has been working toward opening its former cattle plant near Roswell as a horse slaughter facility, with August 5 slated as the opening date.
Its wasterwater discharge permit had lapsed, but the New Mexico Environment Department said it would not issue another without a public hearing because of the number of submissions received. There were about 450 submissions in total, the department said.
It is not anticipated the problem will delay the plant’s opening, as Valley Meat Co. still has the option of trucking its waste to an approved facility.
The company cleared a major hurdle late last month when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted the company approval for plant inspections, as required by law.
THE USDA said it had no choice but to issue the so-called grant of inspection for the plant, provided the necessary conditions were met.
Horse advocates responded with a federal lawsuit, which is scheduled to be heard on August 3, just two days before Valley Meat intends opening its horse plant.
The lawsuit has been brought by Front Range Equine Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, and a variety of other groups and individuals.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking Valley Meat Co. and several plants in other states from beginning commercial horse slaughter until the USDA undertakes a full and adequate environmental review of those operations.
Actor, director, and conservationist Robert Redford has joined with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson in seeking to join the lawsuit.
It is the first action by a new foundation set up by the pair to protect animals and wildlife.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said yesterday he had filed a motion to join the lawsuit.
King said New Mexico had a strong interest in ensuring that commercial operations within its borders were conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
King had earlier voiced concerns over the routine treatment of horses with drugs that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined were unsafe for human consumption in any amount.
In an opinion letter issued last month in response to an inquiry from State Senator Richard Martinez, King noted a 2010 scientific study which revealed the widespread presence in horses destined for slaughter of the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone that the FDA determined could cause bone marrow toxicity in humans.
King’s motion also raises concerns around the additional and costly regulatory burden that commercial horse slaughter operations will likely impose on the State of New Mexico to ensure that waste discharge does not threaten area water supplies and environmental quality.
The USDA has received at least six applications for grants of inspection for horse slaughter plants. Valley Meat Co. and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa, have received approval.
Applications yet to be approved have come from Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Missouri; American Beef Company/Unified Equine in Rockville, Missouri; Trail South Meat Processing Co. in Woodbury, Tennessee; and Oklahoma Meat Co, in Washington, Oklahoma.