Horse News

Proposed New Mexico Horse Slaughter Plant Comes Under Intense Scrutiny

Source: By  of the New York Times

“We need to oppose this unspeakable practice with all our might,”
Piles of cattle bone and offal at a New Mexico slaughterhouse, now seeking to process horses for human consumption. - photo by Troy Grant/New Mexico Solid Waste Bureau

Piles of cattle bone and offal at a New Mexico slaughterhouse, now seeking to process horses for human consumption. – photo by Troy Grant/New Mexico Solid Waste Bureau

Amid the unfolding horse-meat scandal, a New Mexico slaughterhouse has moved closer to becoming the first in the United States since 2007 to be allowed to process horses for human consumption.

“I am recommending to the Dallas district manager that your application be processed, and a grant of federal inspection be issued, provided you meet all other requirements for inspection,” Scott C. Safian, a director at the Agriculture Department, wrote in a letter dated April 13 to Ricardo De Los Santos, owner of the Valley Meat Company.

Mr. De Los Santos has been seeking U.S.D.A. approval for his processing plant in Roswell, N.M., since December 2011.

“Grants will not be issued until an establishment is able to produce a safe product in accordance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act,” said an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, Catherine Cochran.

On Monday, an advocacy group for horses sent a letter to the U.S.D.A., asking it not to grant permission for Mr. De Los Santos to operate the facility because he had failed to disclose two felonies on his original application form, as well as on a second, subsequent form.

“Is this really a guy we want to be operating a regulated business, one in which the U.S.D.A. will rely on his representations?” said Bruce A. Wagman, a lawyer representing Front Range Equine Rescue, the advocacy group.

A. Blair Dunn, the lawyer representing Mr. De Los Santos, said Front Range had erroneously described a case of criminal trespassing as a felony. He said the issue was “another desperate attempt to degrade my clients” by Front Range and the Humane Society of the United States.

“Everything regarding that information has been vetted” through the department’s food safety and inspection service “and has been certified by letter by U.S.D.A. to offer no impediment,” Mr. Dunn wrote in an e-mail.

The issue of horse slaughtering has become contentious in light of a labeling scandal in Europe, where ground beef in processed foods made and sold by companies ranging from Nestlé to Ikea was found to contain horse meat.

On Monday, Robert Redford, who starred in “The Electric Horseman” and “The Horse Whisperer,” lent his voice to the debate in a letter to Equine Advocates, a horse welfare group, explaining his opposition to slaughter. “We need to oppose this unspeakable practice with all our might,” Mr. Redford wrote. “It has no place in our culture.”

Horses have not been slaughtered in the United States since 2007, after Congress forbade the use of federal money for inspection of horse meat. That prohibition fell out of legislation in 2011, and Mr. De Los Santos first applied for inspection in December of that year.

On that application, dated Dec. 13, 2011, Mr. De Los Santos wrote “none” in the section asking applicants to account for any felonies they have committed.

A subsequent application dated March 1, 2012 was filled out the same way, with no note made of any felony.

But on a third application dated March 15, 2013, the section is filled out with Mr. De Los Santos’s name and two convictions, one for criminal trespass in Texas in 1988 and the other for residential burglary there in 1978.

Court records show that Mr. De Los Santos was arrested by the Amarillo police department on Sept. 11, 1989 — his third U.S.D.A. application reported the incident occurring a year earlier — on suspicion of criminal trespass but charged only with a moving violation and convicted of that offense.

He was arrested on Aug. 28, 1978, in Dallam County, Tex., charged with residential burglary and convicted.

In his letter, Mr. Safian indicated that the U.S.D.A. and Mr. De Los Santos had been corresponding for some time on the issue. “We note that your April 4, 2013, submittal contends that the disclosed convictions were previously identified on a 1990 application for federal inspection,” Mr. Safian wrote. “However, for clarification, our records indicate prior disclosure of only the 1978 conviction, and no disclosure of a 1988 conviction prior to submittal of your March 2013 application.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Safian concluded that because of the time that had elapsed since the incidents and “other factors,” he was recommending approval of the application.

Mr. Wagman, the lawyer for Front Range, contended that Mr. De Los Santos now has committed a third felony by improperly filling out his first two applications. Under federal law, it is a felony to knowingly falsify, conceal or materially misrepresent facts submitted on a federal application.

Front Range also forwarded to the U.S.D.A. letters from the New Mexico Environment Department to Mr. De Los Santos, noting various failures related to discharge from what was then known as the Pecos Valley Meat Packing Company, a cattle slaughtering operation the De Los Santos family operated in the facility where they are seeking to slaughter horses.

In 2009 and 2010, the U.S.D.A. itself suspended inspection of Pecos Valley Meats, effectively suspending its operations, after finding problems with its sanitation and food safety program including “inadequate” testing for E. coli and “irregularities” in the segregation and disposal of “specified risk materials.” Those are parts of an animal banned for human consumption because they run a higher risk of contamination with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy prions that transmit mad cow disease. Mr. Dunn said the suspensions were only for a short time.

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37 replies »

  1. Mr Safian sounds like a drone dork-off with meat for brains…not a thinking brain. This idiot is involved in MY food production?????

    And Attorney Dunn is a pathetic quibbler who doesn’t know squat about environment law, food regs or food production.

    Are these the people we and most especially, the meat industry wants to have a representatives of their product? Don’t you just love how slimy the HCHS really is? Guess it’s mandatory thave a criminal record to be in it.


  2. The Humane Society and Front Range Equine rescue filed a law suit against USDA to stop
    Valley Meats request for approval of Inspections.


  3. This place on our local news last night is to open and according to the television local station has passed for horse slaughter and will be under Federal protection when it opens again people who are against horse slaughter. OH WHERE OH WHERE and HOW can this happen and HOW did all the protests against this just not matter. AND where is our state legislators in this matter????


    • The USDA still has to approve the cost for Inspections to his facility…. it’s not approved for
      this currently…That is why the law suit was filed against USDA….


      • The USDA is paid by our federal taxes and the agency’s ability to conduct its regular duties have been diminished by the sequester. Therefore, if the agency takes on this additional work, the safety of the food supply is further compromised. That alone could result in another lawsuit against them as diseases from non-inspected meat multiple. Currently 69% of pork & beef, 85% of fish fillets, and 92% of poultry are contaminated with fecal matter resulting in high potential for E. coli, according to reports from the University of Minnesota and published in the Journal for Food Production. Adding horse meat produced in unsanitary, dangerous, loosely regulated facilities by known criminals to this toxic stew is so irresponsible you have to wonder who the USDA works for – the meat industry or the public??????


      • The news feature on Valley Meats opening, probably had the this lined up month or weeks ago prior to the litigation process that has been filed recently.


    • So you are saying the news said it was opening for sure?? And it has passed WHAT?? NO this can’t be true? I can’t even breath, how on earth is this happening honestly???


  4. Interesting that all the state officials here say they are opposed to slaughter – but they won’t raise a finger to stop this.


    • Yeah, it’s as easy add passing a bill to ban horse slaughter in the state. Sounds like they’ve giving a bunch of double talk to their constituents and catering to the Ag community again. Bastards..


  5. YUP, here we go the majority of people object to this slaughter ALL the facts against it are yet again ignored! I am just so angry also with the officials in N.M. for talking about being against this horse slaughter and yet they are not taking any actions to stop it!!!

    WHERE in H-LL is this toxic meat going to go??

    I still am hopeful that indeed this will not take place!!


  6. You are a sick bunch of people to do this Horrible act to Beautiful Horses. Makes me so angry How do you sleep at night. God is watching. What comes around goes around!!! Karma big time!!


  7. The local news “piece” stating that it was opening was probably based on comments by Santos’ lawyer who has been saying this for months. Based on the fact that Dunn lied about Santos’ prior violations from his cattle slaughtering career, I don’t put much faith in his statements. He has lied over and over in the press. The media takes his word and runs with it.


    • That sounds about right, LNorman. Where I live, close to the home of David Duquette, the news media will interview him whenever he requests it or does something provocative. It must make for more paper sales despite the fact that the Mayor, City Manager, and City Council of the town where he wants to open a slaughterhouse (Hermiston, OR) are publically against it and the state would conduct environmental impact studies that his horse holocaust would easily fail. There is usually letters to the editor pro and con after such a story, so it elicits some activity. Newspapers and other local media are businesses too, so anything that gets the emotional response horse slaughtering does, gets their attention, and they make an attempt to show 2 sides.

      I read that the itty bitty town of Roswell (2,000 pop) didn’t object much to the slaughterhouse. If the bulk of that population is Hispanic because there was a dairy industry there, then that explains the silence. Culturally there is not a lot of objection, especially when there are many who live in the shadows. They do not want to draw attention to themselves. So, when they say there is acquiescence from the locals, be skeptical.


  8. That goes to show you, how much our opinion means, it doesn’t matter what they have done in the past. People have been warned of the drugs given to the horses, how inhumane the slaughter is. It doesn’t matter. This guy of all people, really need to be operating a slaughter plant.for horses. As long as the greedy breeder continue with their practice, There will be discarded horses.


    • Priscilla, your opinion only really matters in one place – the store where you buy, or refuse to buy, the meat. As long as there are consumers who will eat just about anything they are told to eat by the profiteers (including horse), and as long as the $$$ keeps flowing in, the nasty “products” animals are rendered into will still be making life, and a gruesome death, hell for God’s creatures.


  9. How is it that a man who has felony convictions (that he lied about on the inspection application), was fined for violations when he operated a cattle processing business and still owes on those fines (this was my understanding; that he has only paid a portion of those fines), and that he was sighted for inhumane practices with cattle, can still be allowed to open this business. My tax dollars being spent on this? I am livid right now. This is outrageous and unacceptable. Something must still be able to be done to stop this. There must be a way!!!!


  10. this is an outrage! this guy has falsified federal documents, a convicted felon, and with all his past violations, they will let him go forward! I was under the assumption that the government was supposed to protect us against people like him…NOT grant him carte blanche! we need to ask all government agencies, and politicians, why they want to intentionally poison thousands of unsuspecting men, women, and children, of foreign nations! that is what our government will be doing to these people! if and when someone in Europe with half a brain puts 2 & 2 together and traces the tainted meat back to the U.S. they will open themselves up to a big international outcry, and lawsuits! in our fight to keep these slaughterhouses from opening, we can’t use the fact that this is the most barbaric form of death for horses, or any animal,for that fact! we have to state the truth, the united states WILL be responsible for poisoning everyone who eats our horses!! if this guy Is allowed to operate in this country….then we all need to investigate every company that supplies us our food! think about it…scary right? GOD help our horses and us!


  11. This is all way too sick! It’s like we’re literally living in a hellish nightmare! I say, throw all those low-life scumbags to the lions(&, hope the lions don’t get sick!), & burn those hell-houses down to the ground!! That might actually get some attention! Thank you to all who continue without end, their support & advocacy for America’s horses, including the many celebrities stepping in!


  12. I am not surprised. Totally disappointed because those of us from Illinois and Texas know what is coming. All you people in New Mexico had better try for some type of major protest at your state capital. We all have been questioning, writing and blogging amoungst ourselves with little or no apparent action. The majority of the actions has to come from the citizens of the state. Reach out to the Animal Welfare Institute and contact Chris Hyde, he might be able to help you set something up to protest. Chris was very instrumental in helping us. Call-Call-Call…I know Range is helping you..but you have to have someone help you due a call to action..Arizona, California and Texas are close to you so it would appear to me that you have numbers…To hell with the USDA …they are again paid by us and we have no voice…Let all your families protest the beef and other livestock out there that some people live on..The local farmers are the ones being hurt by all this…For all Americans know, they could have been consuming horse meat for a long time..At this point, I would not trust anyone in the USDA – statewide or federal..I’m sorry to say its up to the citizens of the state to protest the company, protest your USDA and protest you state Legislators. Did you ever think that the governor you elected would turn on our horses? Like I said, Blagovich is in prison, but thank God he had the Kahunas to fight the slaughter industry in Illinois in 2007…Illinois was the last closed and it was no small time feat..It took a lot of hard hard work by all of us..New Mexico we are all counting on you as your state, counties and communities will NEVER be the same..Stop it before it
    opens – Illinois was already established.However, we did not give up. .Our efforts paid off and we closed Cavel, Intl. Stop Valley Meats before they get started!!!


    • How many numerous thousands of people have been complaining to our senators????
      Thousands….how many petitions how many phone calls and emails..

      Our voices are being ignored………..

      The point is unless you have some power players to take legal action we are
      a bunch of sniveling horse advocates they aren’t listening to……….



  13. I wouldn’t trust this pathological liar to grow my corn let alone compromise the beef and meat industry. God what is wrong with these idiots who run the meat industry. The cattlemen will suffer from this one. The food industry will suffer in general. People have to eat but they don’t have to touch meat. And the way things are going, meat is going to be a very dangerous commodity. Cattle ranchers are going to pay the price. Dammit, what don’t people understand about toxic meat!


  14. And on tonights news Channel 7 Local Abuq. TV Mrs. Santos was interviewed and said they have been married for 35 yrs and have never had so much hate towards them well maybe its because your dumb ass husband killed his own horse and put it on YouTUBE! ……I WONDER WHY YOU DUMB SLAUGHTER HOUSE PEOPLE OWNERS. Apparently Mr. De Los Santos lives very richly as he has money to burn on the kill of the tax payers horses in this SO called “LAND OF ENCHANTMENT”…..a lady they interviewed there said the town will be known not for its aliens but for there dam, dirty slaughterhouse which wants to kill our beautiful American wild horses….go back to MEXICO….MR SLAUGHTER HOUSE. Oh yes, he also stated that the plans are already in place to export to MEXICO, and Europe…..


    • BLAH..BLAH…BLAH.. De Los Santos is talking crap out of both sides of his mouth.

      I really believe this is a pipe dream he’s having……..USDA is going to be tied up in litigation on this??????.


    • Judith, it was not Rick de los Santos that shot the horse…it was an employee that was supposedly subsequently fired, but maybe not even actually fired.


  15. Robyn your probably right on this …what has this man been smoking? And his wife to not get it about why people are so angry…I will not forget the video we all saw..Does this woman think the
    actions of her husband were normal? God help them if that had been my little colt that they just
    happened to purchase. People like this should be stripped of owning any animals. It pure bs saying
    the killing was justified..No way in the World…I’m sure there was no prosecution..I called the Sheriff’s department with my thoughts as a past hooved humane investigator. Some of these counties are just too backward..Its the 21st century – not medival times..


    • That was Tim Sappington who killed the colt. He worked for Los Santos, and supposedly was fired after the You Tube incident, but I’d bet he’s warming up his truck and getting ready to go buy some horses.


      • Those who work in the slaughter industry are desensitized to animal pain and suffering. To them they are simple “units of production.” All animals in slaughterhouses are brutalized in horrible deaths; horses are no exception.


      • Judy, I have first hand knowledge that everything you say isn’t true, however, the important thing right now is stopping the threat of horse slaughter. We won’t get that done by trying to turn the country or the world into vegetarians. Don’t get side-tracked.


  16. We live within an hour’s drive of Roswell, NM. Roswell is not a small community, Roswell’s population is approximately 48,546. Roswell is a very good tourist community, lots of shopping and restaurants, quite a few family functions throughout the summer including the world famous Alien Fest and Museum. They have a lot of agriculture in Roswell, dairy’s, ranching, crops (mostly alfalfa and cotton). According to the sheriff’s office in Roswell most of the community is against the slaughter facility; however, we have been unable to locate an advocate in that area that is interested in providing assistance.

    Valley Meats is within 15 minutes of the Roswell Livestock Auction house where they run all the horses in the southeast area, so a lot of horses will go from the auction directly to the slaughterhouse. More than likely on a daily basis. There are a lot of horse “breeders” in that area, breeders that have five or more acres throw a bunch of mares into a field with a stallion and just randomly breed, they don’t work with their horses, and there are not many horse functions in the area. They participate in a few ranch rodeo events, rarely any horse shows for the number of horses bred in the area. I know this from a two year search for a broke horse for my grandkids, high prices, unbroke, and untamed horses. Probably because the auction house is dead center in town.

    Ricardo de los Santos is by no means rich, he and his wife have filed bankruptcy, been sued by multiple companies around Roswell for not paying his bills. De los Santos has had multiple warnings for violations for failure to register discharge water, failure to test wastewater from the lagoons, failure to construct synthetically lined evaporative lagoons, failure to register compost piles (actually a legacy environmental hazardous waste pile), closed for inhuman handling of slaughter animals. Since 1998, the New Mexico Environmental Department has participated in allowing de los Santos to continuously violate environmental laws and regulations. This facility is an environmental hazardous liability waiting to happen!


    • Bonnie I also live a couple of hrs from Roswell, I cannot understand why the town, state and gov. does not take action on this guy TV is saying the Fed. Gov will stand by to protect this LOOSER.
      Of course animal activists will be present if it does happen…..cannot they see the light of dangerous happenings there? Also this guy says it going to put people back to work there, WELL HELL this is not a way to put people back to work!! Get a better job than this PEOPLE. I do not think Mexicans are so hard up for jobs in this state to take a dirty job as this. It surely cannot be for the money this guy is willing to pay people.


    • I didn’t know Roswell was so large. Sorry if I made minimizing references.

      Bonnie – YOU and Judith Schmader could organize a protests, since you are residents. You are well informed and would be able to communicate to others in your area. If you do not look like a stereotypical “protester” all the better. People will listen to you.


    What’s an Ag-Gag Law?

    Mad cow disease. Do those words bring video footage of sick and staggering cattle to mind?
    Or maybe you can’t stand to think about it.
    When AG-GAG bills pass, you won’t have to — until you’ve bitten into a tainted burger. Then, brain damage is on the way.

    2013 is the year of Ag-gag laws which ban photographing or videotaping farms without the farmers’ consent.
    Most bills make it a CLASS ONE FELONY, even if images show criminal behavior that violates food safety laws.

    Ag-gag legislation has cropped up in: Iowa, Florida, New York, Minnesota, Indiana Utah ,Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
    I may have missed a state or two, but I know that this month California joined the list.

    When CBS “60 Minutes” partnered with U.S. Dept of Ag in to document food safety violations on chicken farms, they discovered an “eight-foot-high vat of water ..where as many as 10,000 chicken carcasses were…left to soak up moisture to increase their selling weight. Dried blood, feces, and hair” floated around the dead birds. Diane Sawyer later called it ‘fecal soup.'”

    Under Ag Gag laws, journalists or concerned employees would be jailed for revealing what happened before those chickens were sealed under plastic at your grocery store. Some bills are so stringent that Dept of Ag inspectors could be prosecuted for not announcing their presence before taking photographs.

    Just a heads-up, for people who eat.


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