Horse Slaughter in New Mexico Temporarily Blocked by State Court

Jan 01, 2014 12:01 am ET

Jan. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Commercial horse slaughter operations scheduled to start today at a New Mexico plant were temporarily blocked by a judge at the request of the state attorney general.

The court order stops Valley Meat Co. in Roswell from beginning operations as planned until a Jan. 3 hearing on whether a longer halt is merited, state Attorney General Gary King said yesterday in a statement. King opposes commercial horse slaughter, saying the animals aren’t raised for U.S. human consumption and are given drugs banned for use in food animals.

The attorney general sued Dec. 19 in state court in Santa Fe after a U.S. appeals court refused to block commercial horse slaughter. A federal judge in Albuquerque in November concluded the U.S. Agriculture Department was correct in allowing food- safety inspectors at plants without environmental review. Horse slaughter opponents are appealing that ruling.

Congress from 2006 to 2011 halted funding for horse slaughter plant inspections, which are required to sell the meat. The prohibition on funding for inspections wasn’t extended for 2012 and 2013, allowing the practice to resume legally.

‘Publicity Stunt’

Valley Meat, in a response filed yesterday in the Santa Fe court, called the attorney general’s case a “publicity stunt” and “nothing more than political grandstanding.”

“This case represents an abuse of the judicial system by the New Mexico attorney general improperly persuading this court to enjoin a lawful business from their enterprise when neither he nor the court have subject matter jurisdiction to act.”

U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque on Nov. 1 rejected claims by environmental and animal rights groups that the Agriculture Department erred by allowing inspections at horse slaughterhouses without first seeking an environmental review of such operations.

The groups that sued contend waste water from the plants could harm the environment.

The case is State of New Mexico v. Valley Meat Co., D-101- CV-2013-3197, First Judicial District, New Mexico (Santa Fe).

--Editors: Peter Blumberg, Fred Strasser