Last week’s public outrage over a video of a horse shooting has not discouraged owners of Valley Meat Co. from pursuing the grant of inspection from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a company representative said Wednesday.
“Currently everything is still on track and (there has been) nothing new to change that,” said A. Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santos.
The plant, located near Roswell, is expected to get the go-ahead to start processing by the end of April, Dunn said.
A explicit video intentionally released by animal welfare activists last week showed a former Valley Meat Co. maintenance worker, Tim Sappington, killing a horse he purchased at auction and using graphic language against animal activists following the act. He reportedly shot and consumed the meat on his own property.
The New Mexico Livestock Board is continuing to investigate Sappington, of Dexter, for allegations of animal cruelty, according to Katie Goetz, a public information officer for the board.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Goetz said Wednesday. “Any information is going to be turned over to the Chaves County District Attorney.”
In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation, Goetz said no more information would be released about the case.
The question will be whether Sappington euthanized the horse, which apparently was done correctly and for his own consumption, according to media statements made by Chaves County Sheriff’s officials, constitutes animal cruelty.
Valley Meat Co. sued the USDA and its Food Safety and Inspection Service last fall for not allowing inspection services for horses going to slaughter, after the Obama administration and Congress lifted a 5-year-old ban on horse slaughter for human consumption last November.
De Los Santos intends to process the meat for sell abroad, but the meat cannot be processed for humans without an inspection by the USDA.
According to the USDA, three establishments have applied for inspections exclusively for equine slaughter.
These companies must still meet qualifications to be approved, and the agency is in a hurry to reinstate the ban before that happens.
“While there are currently no establishments authorized to slaughter horses, several companies have requested that FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) reestablish inspection,” said Michelle Saghafi, spokeswoman for the USDA in Washington. “These companies must still complete necessary technical requirements and FSIS must still complete its inspector training, but at that point, the Department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections, which is why we urge Congress to reinstate the ban.”