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Horse play: Judge orders bond in NM slaughterhouse case

By   /   August 8, 2013  /   News  /   6 Comments

ISSUING A BOND: A federal magistrate judge has ordered bond to be posted while a controversial horse slaughter case gets resolved in New Mexico.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

ALBUQUERQUE – The long-running arguments over opening the first horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. in seven years took another turn Thursday.

A U.S. magistrate judge ordered the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights advocates to post, for one month, a bond of $435,600 to two companies prepared to open horsemeat packing facilities.

“We’re happy with what the judge ruled,” Blair Dunn, the attorney for Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., told New Mexico Watchdog. “My clients are suffering economic damage.”

The bond will cover expenses and lost profits for owners of the Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, should the companies eventually win in court.

On Aug. 2, a U.S. District Court judge granted a temporary restraining order that blocked the two facilities from opening this week. The judge agreed with attorneys for the Humane Society, Front Range Equine Rescue and other plaintiffs that the horse processing facilities could pose an environmental risk.

In response, the respective lawyers called for $10 million in bonds for a period of six months. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Hayes Scott ruled Thursday the one-month, $435,600 bond was appropriate, considering that within 30 days U.S. District Court Judge M. Christina Armijo will preside over another hearing on whether to grant the Humane Society and other opponents a preliminary injunction.

“The bond requires the plaintiffs to put their money where their mouth is,” Pat Rogers, attorney for Responsible Transportation, told the Associated Press. “There are real-life consequences to these actions and we’re appreciative of the judge recognizing that.”

The horse slaughterhouses have divided conservationists, politicians of both major parties and American Indian tribes in New Mexico. Supporters and critics beyond the state’s borders are watching closely.

The Navajo Nation has argued in favor of the Roswell facility, arguing that its estimates of anywhere between 20,000 to 75,000 feral horses on Navajo land are drinking up water and eating scarce vegetation.

But other tribes — including the Mescalero Apache — don’t want the slaughterhouse. “I’m against it,” Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, told New Mexico Watchdog earlier this week. “Horses are cultural symbols.”

The owners of Valley Meat Co. have a number of legal hurdles to clear, including a hearing from the New Mexico Environment Department over wastewater disposal at the plant. Last week, Dunn said the temporary restraining order from Armijo will keep the Roswell facility from opening for “six months, at least.”

Why not throw in the towel?

“It’s a matter of recovery” for owner Rick De Los Santos, Dunn said. “The only way to cover their losses is to stick it out to the end … Part of it is principle, too. They’re being told by people they appreciate their sticking to it.”

Update 8/9: It appears a third horse meat packing plant — this one in Missouri — is experiencing similar snags. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted a story Friday about a
judge ordering Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources to hold off issuing a waste-water permit to Rains Natural Meats until he can consider a lawsuit alleging that run-off from the plant could contaminate water and soil.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski


Rob formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • 14151617

    When they lose this one they will sue somebody else.All the while our taxpayer money is going down the tube either way it goes.Paying for inspectors for something the we citizens of the U S do not want or paying the DOJ to defend us against ourselves for not wanting it.Doesn’t make much sense does it.
    The 3 Politicians that started this whole mess,Larry Curly and Moe should be the ones who are held accountable.They called for the flawed GAO study the sneaked the de-funding language out. With the President,USDA ,and the American Citizens asking for de-funding and both houses of Congress putting the language back in for 2014. The E U saying they will not accept U S horse meat.Why don’t they just fold up their tents and slaughter cows instead.

  • TJ Lamb

    I have no idea where our Culture is going but someday the Tribes that are allowing this to happen you will meet our Great Spirits and you will have to answer to them. Mother Earth has put all animals here for a reason, and a horse is not to be slaughtered how ungrateful you are to Mother Earth. I hope these places do not open ever anywhere in the USA. It makes me sad knowing this is how we as Americans are just for a buck.

  • Nanette Schieron

    TJ, I agree with you completely, but did you know that we send 100,000 American horses to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico every year? Horses are very sensitive animals and the transport to Canada or Mexico can take as much as 18 hours in cramped conditions with no water. Foals are NOT excluded from slaughter. The bigger issue here and I think you will agree, is outlawing horse slaughter altogether. No horse should have such a cruel end. We must work hard in every state to outlaw the sale of horses to kill buyers at auction. New Jersey is one of the states that has achieved this. We are working in MA to also pass these laws. Perhaps there is a group in your state that you can join in the effort to help horses. Many horse advocacy groups including the HSUS are working hard to put an end to horse slaughter. I think that we can get angry but to put our anger to good use to help the animals we love, the environment and working for the betterment of civilization is the ultimate goal.

  • debbie

    Your so exactly right 14151617,,, Those politicians are Kingston, Blunt, & Kohl, also who set this is motion was Baccus…. SO YES, THEY should pay for this mess…. Notice how all of a sudden nothing is mentioned by Dunn, and all the horses they were going to be HELPING, RIGHT????? Oh yeah, only thing that has come out of his mouth is the loss of money, MONEY!!!! HA, honest to god, how low will some go, if we as a culture can not even care about our animal’s on this earth HOW on earth can we even begin to give a shit about each other??? Horse Slaughter is ONE of the problems, it endorses over breeding I mean there’s no way getting around that, it’s there dumping grounds, another is OVER BREEDING, LIKE AQHA who by the way went to these politician’s to take the defunding out, and THEY have 70% of there Breed in slaughter, so come on this needs to stop, no more excuses……

  • 11thStPopulist

    Fine. HSUS has deep pockets and I am emptying out some of mine to help support their fight. With all the extreme, well documented damage done to the environment with factory farming and slaughter in general, slaughtering another species is lethal to all of us and the future of the planet. That alone would be enough for the plaintiffs to prevail. But with the recent precedence set by Kaufman, TX and DeKalb, Ill – where these highly polluting horse slaughter facilities were closed down for fouling the communities (and subsequently made illegal by those states) – should guarantee that NO HORSE SLAUGHTER returns to the U.S.!!!!!

  • Leshne Donna

    The money should go to getting feed and water out to the range. These horses are on marginalized land as it is (thank you cattle industry and the pushing of native people out to the worst possible, least desirable pieces of land left) but, the other side of the “coin” is the native peoples must compromise on some of their “traditional” beliefs and allow birth control to be administered, because if it’s not born, you don’t have to kill it. There ain’t a tribe alive today (and mine is way older than yours) that does not have to re-evaluate traditions that do not apply to modern life. So if value of life is the game, lets show it by valuing the life on the range and making it possible for the horses that are there to have, a life. PS on the prairie dogs, wolves and coyotes too.