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Judge keeps temporary ban in place against opening horse slaughterhouse

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A judge in Santa Fe today kept in place a temporary ban on opening a horse slaughterhouse in Roswell while he decides whether to make it more long-term.

State District Judge Matthew Wilson heard nearly nine hours of arguments and testimony in the bid by Attorney General Gary King to block the opening of Valley Meat Co.’s operation.

He said he will rule by Friday whether to issue a preliminary injunction in the case.

King claims the company is poised to violate state water quality and food safety laws if it’s allowed to start slaughtering operations again.

A former state Environment Department official, William Olson, testified this morning that the company was cited for a series of violations of state law in recent years when it was running a cattle slaughterhouse at the site. Those included continuing to operate after a water discharge permit expired, and failing to monitor its operations and make reports to the state.

An equine veterinarian from Colorado, Dr. Randy Parker, also testified that horses are routinely given drugs that have not been determined to be safe for human consumption. And he said there’s no evidence that spending 120 days on a feed lot — as Valley Meat says the horses would do — would make the meat safe.

A lawyer for Valley Meat, Blair Dunn, told the judge it’s not true that the company plans to “run amok” and ignore state law and regulations. He says the company has been consulting with the Environment Department about how it can to arrange to operate legally.

The company has requested a wastewater discharge permit from the Environment Department. No final decision has been made, although a hearing officer has recommended against its issuance.

The company also has talked to the department about an alternative wastewater disposal method that wouldn’t require a discharge permit. But it hasn’t yet applied to the Environment Department for permission to do that.

The attorney general’s office argued that Valley Meat isn’t anywhere near ready to open lawfully.

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