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New Mexico Horse Slaughterhouse Moves Closer To Opening, Despite Threats And Protests

03/19/2013 05:45 pm ET

A proposed horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico is just weeks away from opening, according to A. Blair Dunn, a lawyer for Valley Meat Co. in Roswell. Rick De Los Santos, the General Manager for the meat company, has told The Huffington Post that he expects the plant to open around April 29, upon receiving approval from the USDA.

"Everything we've heard is that everything is a 'go' and that it should be okay," De Los Santos said. After the plant is approved, the company plans to wait a week or two before beginning to slaughter horses.

De Los Santos has already experienced delays in getting approval for his plant, not to mention a vocal resistance to his business. In conversation with The Huffington Post, De Los Santos referred to "countless" threatening phone calls, some serious enough to involve the sheriff department. But De Los Santos maintains that there is nothing that can legally stop his company from opening a horse slaughterhouse.

Several advocacy groups oppose the opening of the plant. In an email statement to The Huffington Post, Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, argued that there are several issues at stake:

In addition to our objections to the inhumane nature of the slaughter pipeline, we remain concerned about food-safety issues. American horses are routinely given hundreds of drugs and other substances, both legal and illegal, over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. We strongly support newly introduced federal legislation, SAFE (Safeguard American Food Exports), that will ban the slaughter of American horses and protect consumers and the reputation of all USDA-inspected meat.

In 2007, Congress approved a bill that blocked the USDA from financing the inspection of horse meat. Since horse slaughterhouses cannot operate without USDA inspections, the measure effectively banned the facilities. The bill lapsed in 2011.

In the effort to stop the New Mexico slaughterhouse from opening, four members of Congress introduced legislation this week (referenced in the Humane Society statement) designed to prohibit transporting horses outside the country for slaughter.

The legislation would block the New Mexico slaughterhouse, as it plans to sell its meat to customers in non-U.S. markets. No product would stay in the U.S., explained De Los Santos.

De Los Santos doesn't foresee something like the Europe horse meat scandal happening in the U.S. though -- he's at least being forthright about the kind of meat he wants to slaughter. He may not be making any friends on the animal rights side, but he doesn't have huge issues about the meat itself. "Protein is protein," he said.

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