A year-end attempt by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King to quickly prevent a Roswell slaughterhouse from processing USDA-inspected horsemeat for export has apparently failed. It means a New Mexico business could be still be slaughtering horses as early as Jan. 1.
King, a Democrat who is also running for governor, held a Dec. 19 news conference to announce he was seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Valley Meat Co. in Roswell “from killing and butchering horses for food.” But, a week later, on Dec. 26, New Mexico court records show the only real action that has occurred in the case is to assign it to a different judge.
King filed the 25-page civil lawsuit on behalf of the State of New Mexico with the First Judicial District in Santa Fe, where it was assigned to Judge Raymond Z. Ortiz. A peremptory challenge was filed against Ortiz and he was officially removed from the case on Dec. 23, replaced by the First District’s newly named family law judge, Matthew Wilson.
Wilson, 44, was just named to the state bench in October by Gov. Susana Martinez. The Republican governor named the former domestic relations hearings officer to the bench primarily to handle the district’s family law docket.
Since his appointment, however, other civil cases outside the family law docket have been assigned to his court. Wilson’s schedule for the rest of the year shows only some domestic violence and family law cases.
The civil lawsuit filed by King names Ricardo De Los Santos of Roswell and three companies he owns – Valley Meat Co., Dairyland Packing Inc., and Mountain View Packing – as defendants. King filed the civil action in state court after the U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 13 gave the green light to USDA inspection of qualified horse slaughter operations.
Albuquerque attorney A. Blair Dunn, who represents both Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meat in Gallatin, MO, called King’s civil lawsuit “frivolous” and a waste of taxpayer money.
In Missouri, the FBI is reportedly investigating death threats against Rains family members and warnings that its plant will be burned down. Valley Meat was the target of arsonists earlier in the year.
Congress two years ago lifted budgetary restrictions that for five years prevented USDA from providing equine inspections. Horses have not been slaughtered under USDA inspection in the U.S since 2007.© Food Safety News