USDA officials had no issues leaving behind a recommendation for an immediate grant of inspection from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) after visiting Valley Meat Co., located near Roswell, NM Tuesday, its attorney says.
If true, this would mean Valley Meat Co. would be the first USDA-inspected horse slaughterhouse to commence operation since 2007 in the United States. For five years, there was a ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption in the U.S.
Rick De Los Santos, who owns Valley Meat Co. along with his wife, Sarah, told the New York Times that USDA sent him a letter saying his application is being processed in advance of a grant of federal inspection being issued. His attorney, Blair Dunn, says the plant actually passed inspection last year, but USDA needed more time to come up with testing for drug residues in horsemeat.
USDA isn’t yet commenting. The Obama Administration, which first went along with lifting the ban, now wants to exclude money for inspectors at horse slaughter plants from the 2014 budget. There’s also Congressional action going on that might or might not result in restoration of the ban.
When it did exist, the ban was achieved through some rather arcane budget maneuvers. It requires that riders or amendments be placed in USDA’s budget to defund equine inspections. Otherwise, USDA is required by law to inspect all meat.
After the ban was in place, the Government Accounting Office of Congress did a study that suggested horses were suffering more with the ban than without it.
Meanwhile, action on horse slaughter, for and against, is heating up throughout the country. Oklahoma lifted a 50-year state ban on horse slaughter, making way for a possible export operation at some point in the future.
Texas and Illinois, former locations for horse slaughter, have imposed laws to prevent its resumption. More recently, California and New Jersey have adopted state bans, and New York has a ban bill pending.
In New Mexico, tension is building, prompting Chaves County Sheriff James R. “Rob” Coon to plan with other agencies for any protests or “trouble” that might result from Valley Meat Co. commencing horse slaughter.© Food Safety News