New Mexico Plant to Process Horse Meat?

The United States Department of Agriculture is reviewing an application by a rancher in New Mexico that would make his facility the only horse slaughterhouse in the United States.

Rick De Los Santos is the owner of a Valley Meat Co. which is a slaughter house outside of Roswell, N.M.. However, due to the high cost of cattle the slaughterhouse owner had to lay off all his employees and now sees horses as the only way to save his business.

Los Santos has received strong opposition from several groups who say that horses should not be used for human consumption.

De Los Santos explained that what he is proposing is entirely legal. He plans to slaughter the horses at his plant and then export the meat to Mexico; it would not be for domestic consumption.

"There's no regulation as to how they (slaughter horses) in Mexico," De Los Santos told the Daily Record. "It's nowhere close to the USDA standards."

Since 2006 the federal government had virtually banned domestic slaughterhouses from processing horse meat by defunding the Department of Agriculture's ability to inspect facilities that butchered horses for consumption, meaning the uninspected meat could not be sold.

That defunding aspect of the bill was lifted by President Obama and paves that way for horse slaughter houses to open.

De Los Santos once had nearly 50 employees who worked at his processing facility, but he explained the economic conditions forced him to virtually cease all activities.

"All we're doing is trying to make a living," De Los Santos told the Daily Record. "My whole life is invested in this business."

However, he is facing opposition from several politicians in the state. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Attorney General Gary King and State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, have all voiced opposition to the plan.

"Despite the federal government's decision to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption, I believe creating a horse slaughter industry in New Mexico is wrong and I am strongly opposed," Martinez said.