LAS CRUCES – The state Livestock Board and Chaves County law enforcement Friday continued the investigation into a Dexter man who made a video of himself killing a horse with a shot to the head after swearing at animal rights activists.
The man, who could not be reached for comment, has been identified as Tim Sappington, a longtime employee of Valley Meat Co., the Roswell area company seeking USDA inspections so that it can begin slaughtering horses to export the meat to Mexico and European markets. Valley Meat fired Sappington Thursday after the video was widely distributed by a horse shelter in California.
The video came to light after Sappington was featured in a March 20 story by Bloomberg Businessweek. “Anything we’ve ever made with meat, we’ve made with horse,” Sappington is quoted saying in the story, which said horses have been a staple of the man’s diet his entire life.
In a statement issued late Friday, the New Mexico Livestock Board said it would not issue further details about the case until the investigation is complete. The Board’s statement says it “takes allegations of animal cruelty very seriously.”
Killing horses for personal consumption, but not for sale, is legal in New Mexico, while the malicious killing of an animal constitutes a criminal charge of animal cruelty. Ray Baca, executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, said he was unable to conclude yet whether Sappington broke the law.
The Bloomberg news service quoted Sappington saying: “I killed that animal for my consumption. If I had shot that thing in the guts or the legs or beat it and left it in the pasture for the coyotes to get at, it’d be a different discussion. I shot that for my human, my personal, consumption.”
In a 51-second version of the video, Sappington looks at the camera and says, “All you animal activists, (expletive) you,” then pushes the muzzle of a handgun close to the horse’s forehead and fires once.
After publication of the March 20 story about Sappington’s interest in seeing horse slaughtering operations begin at Valley Meat, a supporter of the Oroville, Calif.-based non-profit shelter, Horse Plus Humane Society, found the video of Sappington shooting the horse. Horse Plus then sent a link to the video in a “call to action” to its 50,000 supporters, urging them to pressure state and federal officials to ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and investigate Sappington.
According to the application for a warrant to search Sappington’s residence, Sappington provided a Livestock Board investigator with a five-pound vacuum-sealed package of meat from the horse killed in the video, and a microdisc with the unedited video showing him killing, butchering and packaging the horse’s meat.
Supporters of the slaughterhouse’s efforts say that horses are already exported for slaughter in plants in Canada and Mexico, that operations could employ dozens of workers in Roswell, and that a New Mexico operation would reduce the number of horses abandoned.
Last year, 10,485 horses were exported to Mexico through a privately-owned livestock crossing next to the Santa Teresa port of entry.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal