Horse News

Colo.-Based Horse Advocacy Group Seeks Fines on NM Slaughterhouse over Waste Disposal

“…during fly season the pile literally moves due to maggots”

Are Horses Next? ~ photo by Terry Fitch

A Colorado-based horse advocacy group says a New Mexico company seeking to become the nation’s first slaughterhouse for horses since 2007 should face fines for violating laws on waste disposal.

The Albuquerque Journal reports ( that the state Environment Department received a letter this week from Front Range Equine Rescue calling for fines against Valley Meat Co. The Roswell-area slaughterhouse has hauled 400 tons of composted cattle parts from its property, after two years of prodding by the state Environment Department.

But Front Range Equine Rescue said the company should still be fined for past offenses highlighted by a USDA inspector in January 2010.

Fines can reach $5,000 daily per violation, so Valley Meat could be subject to millions in fines. However, Auralie Ashley-Marx, chief of the Environment Department’s Solid Waste Bureau, said Friday that there are mitigating circumstances, such as the recent removal of the waste and the lack of a market for De Los Santos’ compost.

“This is not a black and white case,” she said. “Sometimes there are limiting factors that are difficult to overcome.”

Valley Meat Co. officials could not be reached for comment.

The firm, owned by Rick De Los Santos, burst into the public spotlight after it filed an inspection application with the USDA in March in a bid to slaughter horses for human consumption in foreign markets.

No rendering plants have slaughtered horses in the United States since 2006, when Congress decided to withhold funds for USDA inspections of horses bound for slaughter. Federal funds for those legally required inspections were restored last fall in an agricultural spending bill.

Gov. Susana Martinez and other high-ranking state officials have spoken out against the startup of a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico. An application for USDA inspections is pending before the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Ron Nelson, with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, notified state officials about the decomposing cattle in a January 2010 correspondence: “Mr. De Los Santos drags dead cattle (mostly old dairy cows) and piles them on a concrete pad where he leaves them to rot. He calls it ‘composting’ but by all appearances rotting would be more accurate. I am told that during fly season the pile literally moves due to maggots.”

Nelson in 2010 wrote that one pile of cow renderings stood about 15 feet high and was “full of bones and animal parts.” He added: “There is no composting, just animals piled upon each other.”

But Ashley-Marx said Friday that Valley Meat had composted the material, if crudely and in an unregistered operation, and she said the large piles of material “pose(d) no threat to public health or the environment.” She said Valley Meat had improved its composting operation since she visited in 2010 and now has a certified compost facility operator.

However, Valley Meat still does not have a registered compost facility, partly because of gaps in its application and partly because the state has taken more than a year to process its application.

10 replies »

  1. This guy in Roswell NM had tons of violations when he slaughtered cattle and now he wants to slaughter horses. Somethin’ wrong with this picture!


  2. Piling one dead animal on top of another and then another is not composting. This is gross and disgusting. If he had added other material as one of our advocates reports having done with hay from her hay shed, it might have been compost.

    This is just gross. In NC we have one licensed contractor for livestock disposal. It is illegal to bury livestock on a farm (not saying that it doesn’t go on some places, but where I board my horse we follow state and country guidelines to a T). If an animal is humanely euthanized or simply dies of natural causes, it must be removed and go to the one landfill in the state approved to compost the animals. If you know ahead of time, that you are going to euthanize your animal, it is a good idea to call the licensed contractor ahead of time—you may wait for hours, but his fee is reasonable: $150.00. We have terrible fly, tick, no-seeums, and other insect problems for horses particularly in the spring. One of the products I use on my horses says on its label that it is toxic to fish, so that it cannot be disposed of anywhere (if you don’t use it all up) near water.

    There are also issues of wildlife consuming tainted meat and dying from the toxic chemicals we put in horses.

    Considering that the not slaughtered cows were mostly dairy cattle, would that support the supposition that the people who brought the dairy cows to the slaughter house were using chemicals like phenylbutazone and Ivermectin on them. Wonder why they were discarded and not slaughtered. I’d be curious to know a little more about this part of the story since Old Charlie himself admitted at Slaughter Fest that “we have a problem with dairy cattle”.

    I wonder if this environmental director knows anything about the studies the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service have done with wildlife deaths as a result of eating contaminated carcasses. I’d suggest to anyone who has any of these reports to send them to Hillary Wood at Front Range Rescue.


    • Compost is not made from meat. It’s made from vegetable matter. That’s not composting that’s decomposition for no good reason. Maybe they should start a side industry for pink slime. Oops that product is not doing so well these days.


      • That’s right – compost is not made from meat. Animals have to be put in a land fill. Even that is disrespectful. Cremation is the only way.


  3. So disgusting that he can do that and get away with it then want to open a slaughter house for horses—- not No but HELL NO!


  4. They should rot like their compost pile, except in hell; and it should be an eternal process of never ending decomposition for these bastards.


  5. Why can’t we humans just suck up & do the right thing, after all, we caused the problems!?? This whole subject of horse-slaughter returning to the United States, & the on-going plight of America’s wild equines, & let’s not forget, the “unwanted horses”, all make me & many others completely sick to our stomachs! If “they” can afford to build or otherwise start up equine slaughter, & pay all the employees who will have to do the dirty work, they can also afford to use that very same money to build equine rescue & adoption facilities & hire workers to care for & re-train horses for re-homing. Every horse owner, especially breeders, should have to pay into a support fund for equines, to ensure they are given second (or more) chances, or at least the opportunity to “retire” in peace, or, in the worse case scenerio, such as permanent injury, old age with complications, or sick or otherwise, with absolutely no chance at recovery or living a quality of life, affordable, professional HUMANE, euthanasia by a licensed vet or technician. If the main problem is affordability, why can’t we come up with an affordable answer & choices for horse owners? Like, affordable euthanasia, affordable cremation &/or disposal, equine shelters run like those for smaller companion animals, oh, &, like if the idiotic BLM can’t afford to “care for”(gag me !!) all the horses being held in captivity, then by damn it, let them loose!! Let them run free, take them back to their rightful homes! I’m so sick of hearing that the only answer to all these so-called “unwanted horses” is slaughter, as I recently read in Horse & Rider, among others!! We are such a sick, pathetic throw-away society!


  6. de los Santos couldn’t keep his business going before, he should get a real job and quit trying to make a living off of dying. He jumped in with both feet and now is whining about inability to get his permit. He is a bottom feeder, needs to get out of the slaughter business. I don’t feel sorry for him at all. The Gov. of NM and many others there do not want a horse slaughter plant in NM.
    I do not know why our government does not close the border to Mexico to transports with horses on their way to slaughter, there must be a way, also to Canada. We cannot stop the Mexicans or the Canadians from their evil practice, but we can stop ourselves.


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