National debate on horse slaughter hits home in New Mexico

Valley Meat Company, New Mexico

This article points out that there are Roswell locals who are against horse slaughter. The national media has at times portrayed the locals as being for horse slaughter. The person in the article who is concerned about their groundwater is wise. Over the past two decades, Valley Meat has accumulated more than 5000 violations of state environmental laws. Those laws keep our ground water, river and water ways safe for humans and animals alike. Fortunately for the time being we do not have to worry about Valley Meat operating a horse slaughter plant. ~ HfH

From: The Los Angeles Times
By: John M. Glionna

smileywootenROSWELL, N.M. — Dressed in blue jeans, boots and an oversized cowboy hat, Smiley Wooton walked the grounds of his animal auction house here, detailing the intricacies of livestock life and death — whether it’s a cow, pig or goat.

The barrel-chested rancher, who is also a Chaves County commissioner, says making informed decisions on which animals live and which go to slaughter is ingrained in the cultural fabric of this agricultural community of 48,000 in southeastern New Mexico, even among its children.

He pointed to dozens of photos of 4-H winners posing with prize animals they raised from infancy. “Every one of these kids knew that animal would end up on somebody’s plate,” he said. “Everyone here gets that.”

Now, that prevailing local wisdom is being challenged. The owner of a livestock processing plant wants his slaughterhouse to become the nation’s first in years to begin butchering domestic horses.

Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santos, whom most folks know as a hard-working family man, had slaughtered cattle at his plant for two decades before it closed in 2012. A faltering economy, he says, prompted his decision to switch to horses.

Although Wooton and others favor the plan, condemnation has poured in from across the country. And though locals aren’t picketing in this close-knit community where high school students have slaughtered animals in agriculture classes, many quietly say they, too, oppose killing horses.

“A horse’s brain is rigged differently than a cow’s,” said resident Cassie Gross, who says that many domestic horses are medicated with drugs that could leach into the drinking water. “A bolt to the forehead isn’t a sure kill. It’s not humane.”

Two years after Congress voted to defund horse slaughterhouse inspections in 2005, state bans in Texas and Illinois shut down the three remaining plants nationwide, prompting many unwanted horses to be exported for slaughter in foreign markets.

De Los Santos says 158,000 U.S. horses were shipped to Mexico and Canada last year, product that could provide jobs in Roswell. After months of legal wrangling, including suits filed by animal advocates and the state of New Mexico, his bid seems to be on hold.

A state district judge this month issued an injunction to stop the plant from opening after New Mexico’s state attorney general filed suit, claiming the plant would contaminate the food chain. And the latest budget passed by Congress cut funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants, a move that animal advocates say should keep entrepreneurs like De Los Santos out of the horse-killing business.

“Americans care for horses, we ride horses, and we even put them to work. But we don’t eat horses in the United States. And we shouldn’t be gathering them up and slaughtering them for people to eat in far-off places,” Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said after the budget’s passage.

Wooton and others beg to differ. They say politicians in Washington and the state Capitol in Santa Fe should stay out of Roswell’s — and De Los Santos’ — business.

“This man has been raked over the coals so doggone long, it’s frustrating for everybody,” Wooton said. “Nobody loves horses more than cowboys. But society has made horses bigger than they are. They’re livestock, a tool of the ranch business, not household pets.”

Local leaders have some advice for out-of-state activists who pledge to protest if one horse is slaughtered here: Stay home.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • susan rudnicki

    Journalistic investigation of Horse slaughter story–poor marks
    Susan Rudnicki

    3:40 PM (2 minutes ago)

    to john.glionna, letters
    Mr Glionna and the Times Editors—

    It appears to me that you have done a superficial job of discovering the facts related to Mr de los Santos, “whom most folks know as a hardworking family man”…
    For your information, Mr de los Santos proposes shoving a extremely messy, business destroying, taxpayer burdening, water supply polluting equine “processing” plant in the heart of a state that does NOT want it.
    Mr de los Santos is a decades long scoff law in running his former operation, cattle slaughtering, and has every appearance of trying to carry out the same subterfuge in the current plan. He is documented by the New Mexico Dept. of Environment, the Water Quality Board and other agencies as being in continual violation of sanitation and water quality laws. He had massive piles of rotting cow hides, carcasses, and bones on his site, calling it “composting” and repeatedly violated discharge permits for wastewater.
    I am including for you here, the PDF link, of the independent Hearing Officer’s report for the current hearing by the Water Quality board of the NM Environment Department REFUSING to grant the equine slaughterhouse permit, and the detailed evidence of the reasons why.
    I direct you especially to the pages 27 and after, where the characterization is “…Valley Meat Co. has willfully and repeatedly disregarded New Mexico environmental laws…”

    In case this is not enough for you to grasp the enormity of the siting of a horse slaughter plant in a small town, I direct your attention to the comprehensive documentation of the small town of Kaufman, TX, and the experiences of the mayor, Paula Bacon, over the course of more than 20 years, to dislodge the egregious, dirty, expensive, non-tax paying, cruel and business withering horse slaughter plant of her town. See here

    Finally, sir, Mr Wooton (who looks like he never misses a meal, so might clearly be in favor of eating just about anything) pulls out the well-worn trope of “people who don’t live here have no business telling us how things should be done” As a democracy, were we to follow that nonsense, we would never have freed slaves, stopped children from working in factories instead of going to school, and other protections of “local economic issues” that certain demographics harangued were their protected interests alone. Mr Wooton and others are sorely misinformed if they think they speak for the whole of New Mexico’s population on the issue of horse slaughter and horse slaughter plants, using taxpayer dollars to inspect a product that is shipped to foreign markets. We ALL pay for slaughter plant inspectors and whether the issue is one of cruelty, polluted water supplies, or drug residues in meat that is not tested for drugs SPECIFICALLY BANNED FOR USE IN FOOD ANIMALS, the whole mess is unacceptable.
    I invite your response and hope you do some background research before you write on this subject again.
    Susan Rudnicki, Manhattan Beach CA 90266

    January 27, 2014
  • Tell Wooton, Horses are our Business our only Business,and we will do everything possible to save the life of each and every horse who breathes the same air as we do!!! Who in the Hell does this guy think he is ???????? As for De los Santos, he is a Flaming Criminal why would anyone who has educated mind ever stick up for a piece of human garbage???????

    January 27, 2014
  • Nina

    Susan…that was AWESOME!!! THANK YOU!!!

    January 28, 2014