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Navajo Nation will support NM horse processing plant

By   /   July 31, 2013  /   No Comments

The Navajo Nation is about to wade into the heated debate over a horse-meat processing plant in Roswell and will support Valley Meat Co. becoming the first horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. in seven years.

“They’re eating up the land and drinking all the water,” Erny Zah, spokesman for Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley told New Mexico Watchdog of the feral horses on Navajo Nation land that encompasses 27,425 square miles, including parts of Arizona and Utah as well as a large section of northwest New Mexico.

Zah estimated there are 20,000 to 30,000 “feral horses on our lands,” and that Navajo Nation lawyers in Washington, D.C., are in the process of finalizing a letter that Shelly will sign in support of the horse slaughter facility “with the next couple of days.”

COMING OUT IN FAVOR: The Navajo Nation is about to come out in favor of a controversial horse slaughter facility in Roswell, NM. Photo from Facebook.

COMING OUT IN FAVOR: The Navajo Nation is about to come out in favor of a controversial horse slaughter facility in Roswell, NM. Photo from Facebook.

“I’m sympathetic to the native nations but all this is going to do is make New Mexico the slaughter state,” said Phil Carter of Animal Protection New Mexico, one of the facility’s opponents. “We have to move forward beyond this outdated and cruel slaughter model.”

The debate over the facility in Roswell has sparked heated arguments that extend beyond state borders.

Opponents of the facility include Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, former Gov. Bill Richardson, state Attorney General Gary King and State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, as well as actor Robert Redford and animal rights groups. The Humane Society of the United States is one of a slew of plaintiffs seeking an injunction to stop the company from opening its slaughterhouse operations.

Supporters say that given the rising cost of hay, horses have been abandoned and left to starve. They argue it’s better to have unwanted and dying horses killed in a federall -inspected facility in the U.S. than have them sent to plants in places like Mexico, where they often meet gruesome deaths in unsanitary conditions.

“Which would you rather do, put them down in a humane fashion or let them starve to death,” the facility’s attorney Blair Dunn said earlier this month.

The debate has become more intense as Valley Meat Co. hopes to open as soon as Aug. 5. A federal court hearing is set for Friday in Albuquerque

Last Saturday, a fire broke out at the company and officials suspect it may have been deliberately set. The blaze burned part of the exterior of Valley Meat Co.’s building and damaged a refrigeration unit. A Chaves County sheriff’s lieutenant described the fire as “very suspicious.”

“It was an act of domestic terrorism,” Dunn told the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership Tuesday.

Zah said the Navajo Nation’s decision to weigh in on the matter is “more economic” than anything else.

“We’re already in a drought,” Zah said. “We already have our registered cattle and sheep and registered horses to care for. We’re concerned about water and vegetation” being eaten by feral horses.

Zah said a horse slaughter facility in Roswell is simply closer and more cost-effective.

“We need some place to take them,” he said. “There are other options but they are more costly … The plant Roswell provides us this opportunity.”

But Carter says there are other options, including injecting horses with contraceptives, gelding stallions and euthanizing them.

But isn’t that expensive?

Carter points to the New Mexico Equine Protection Fund that his group administers and says the cost to tending to feral horses has been reduced to about $200 per head. “And there’s no reason those costs couldn’t come down more,” Carter said.

“They’re sacred animals,” Zah acknowledged but added, “We also have a kinship with our land. There’s a delicate balance there. Everything is related, everything is intertwined. When one is out of balance, we have to take care of that delicate balance.”

Supporters of the plant have estimated there are 9,000 feral horses on Mescalero Apache land in southern New Mexico. Numerous phone calls from New Mexico Watchdog to Alfred LaPaz, acting president of the Mescalero tribe, seeking comment have gone unanswered.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rob@nmwatchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski


Rob formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • smokeysdad

    Obviously Mr. Dunn doesn’t understand the terror a horse goes through prior to it’s dispatch. Nor does he understand the sequence of events or the law. The law requires that if a captive bolt is used it has to work with one shot. If the horse moves it’s head or is not left unconscious then what do you do? In Canada they hit them over and over (11 times have been documented) until they horse falls. Mr. Dunn even you have to admit this is barbaric!

    In this country that is against the law…you’ve got one shot! That’s it…PERIOD!

    Now what do you do with the horse you fail to knock out with the one shot?? Now it’s traumatized and most like severely wounded…what do you do?

    It’s different than with smaller livestock where the head is placed in clamps to hold it still. They can’t do that with a horse…no one, not even Dr. Grandin has developed that system yet.

    This is not how we’re supposed to treat animals. With all the fear that comes from being transported, and being shipped to unfamiliar territory, then lined up to hear their companions screaming in agony, to see the doors open and smell the blood of the others before them…Maybe, just maybe, they’d rather starve to death.

    But there’s a better solution. Restore the original HMA’s to the wild horses and let the captive return home. Use the long term holding ranches as a ‘retirement’ home for the abandoned and neglected. Stiffen the penalties paid by those who do abuse and neglect or abandon. This should not be a misdemeanor but a Felony with jail time mandatory!

  • Debbie

    Yeah, this is just so not alright if you will… We have never NOT had slaughter, so what’s the Navajo’s excuse for not using it since they are being over run with horses???? WOW, this is so ridiculous…… Horse Slaughter has NEVER been the answer, so I say WHY have they not tried to limit the production of horses, WHY< If I am to believe there accusations?? Shameful for Navajo's to prefer slaughter to fixing the problem, like I said if there is one?????

  • Beckette

    If it were me, and I were given a choice between a slow death by starvation or a trip to a house of death on a crowded transport crammed with other terrified humans, then to stand in line for a turn in a blood soaked box for a bolt to my head, guess what! I pick starving to death!

    How did the Navajo nation end up with so many horses on their lands? This is all new information. Who’s doing the counting? Where are the photos of videos of the massive herds of “feral’ horses. I wanna see!

  • Patricia Ranstrom

    So the Navajo Nation supports the plan for NM to waste water, lots of water, processing the toxic remains in huge ponds which will contaminate the ground water in and around Rosewell, and the Navajo Nation has no concern for the total cost to all NM tax payers for replacing the ruined municipal water systems of Roswell. Instead of seeking solutions for water needs for all the life on the reservation, just kill the horses, that will solve the issue.

  • Kat

    Horses that are not killed with the first blow, those that are alived and terrorized are filled with cortisol. This is a hormone that floods the meat and makes it extremely undesirable as it is unhealthy to eat. Any hunter worth his salt knows this. But the horse killers of Roswell do not care, they are only interested making $. They have no concern whether this “food” would be safe to consume. Likewise they care not that the vast majority of domestic horses are toxic as food because they’ve been treAted with various vet drugs, remedies that are banned for animals intended for human consumption.

  • Kat

    So Dunn is a seer, relying on his ESP to affirm the fire was “an act of terrorism”? It looks pretty suspicious to me, like maybe an inside job so insurance funds can be tapped to pay his fees and for all the requirements put on this facility. One just never knows how these minds work. Actually it does seem part of an act of terrorism – a group of unscrupulous, greed focused hateful killers has pushed to install a killing facilty fully rejected, reviled, by nearly 90% of Americans. Not to meet a market need but rather to provide toxic carcinogenic “food” that is not acceptable to Americans, not even legal in the US due to its toxicity and the cultural taboo. They want to sell it to unsuspecting foreign consumers so they can make $. Who cares who they harm? They certainly do not as they continue to claim none of these issues are truth even while the FDA and studies prove otherwise. So, yeah, that sounds terroristic to me so who would be surprised if these terrorist killers set a little fire? It would not surprise me one bit given their track record.

  • Kat

    Moderator, sorry for the duplicate. Silly browser made it appear it had not taken the 1st time around. Please toss the 1st version since I edited the 2nd a lttle. Thank you.

  • audie voorhies

    Stop all horse slaughter. Rick De Los Santos and his wife are the Devils. So is Gov. Mary Fallin from Oklahoma. Save these horses.

  • Rob Nikolewski

    no worries

  • Linda Horn

    I live in Farmington, New Mexico, a city right next to the Northeast corner of Navajo Tribal Lands. I have done a lot of research on this and other topics concerning the Navajo including sovereignty, the 1886 Treaty that created the Reservation, The Long Walk, and many more.

    I’m sure lots of the Nation’s members own firearms. Many of their horses are starving and close to death. The only kind thing is to put them down when they’re found. Why haven’t they been doing that since the U.S. plants closed?

    In 2008, at least some of the Chapter Houses took advantage of a partnership with the BIA/BLM/USDA and HSUS (PZP) for horse control and a program to develop at-risk youth as horse trainers. It slowed to a stop when the sequester began and funding dried up. If you reverse the BLM equation of 100% herd growth over 5 years, that would have meant far fewer horses causing problems since 2008. They may not have continued to receive a government stipend, but it seems to me they could have paid for at least SOME of the program themselves. A lot more money comes to Window Rock than the elected officials want outsiders and their own people to know.

    Running huge numbers of sheep on Tribal Lands for decades made a major contribution to desertification. The government has been transferring leases from ranchers who have been good stewards of the land for years to those who have guaranteed to run more livestock, because it means additional monies to the Nation’s treasury. That happened to a ranching family a couple of years ago. Fortunately, they took the matter to the Tribal Court and won. If you go the Navajo Times Facebook page, you’ll read comments by a number of their own people calling for livestock reduction to prevent more overgrazing. So far, I haven’t heard any of their leaders even mention that.

    The Navajo have the right to slaughter the horses themselves to feed their own people. Of course, feeding them wouldn’t put money in the pockets of those who would benefit from selling them to slaughter. Again, as someone who lives close to Tribal Lands and reads about their corruption on the front page of our paper several times a week, I doubt many of the chapter members would see a penny of it.

  • http://www,jamcclure.com James McClure

    India has the same problem with cows… they run free in the streets and are a major nuisance in some cities, yet no one dares mess with them. New Mexico is moving in the same third-world direction.

  • morgansinkc

    I have a feeling that this is all about the money with the Navajo Nation, and that by taking horses directly to slaughter it avoids the issue of the Wild Horses, which are Federally-protected. Last Saturday the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe had what are said to be Mustangs mixed in with their horses and tried to sell them at the Fallon Livestock Auction.

  • morgansinkc

    Watch This Video!!! The beginning is a bit difficult to watch, but doesn’t last very long and then gets to the heart of the matter regarding the wild horses in the U.S.:


  • morgansinkc

    Please ask your U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the Safeguard American Food Exports act. Safeguard American Food Exports act is S. 541 in the U.S. Senate and H.R. 1094 in the U.S. House of Representatives. This website makes it easy to contact your elected officials: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

  • morgansinkc

    There is a brand new Facebook page dedicated to consolidating all of the anti-horse slaughter petitions into one place, so you no longer have to go looking for them all!


  • morgansinkc