The latest attempt to ban horse slaughter in New Mexico effectively died in the Legislature on Monday.
The House Committee on Agriculture, Water and Wildlife tabled three bills sponsored by Gail Chasey, D-Bernalillo, that would have prohibited the slaughter of horses for human consumption, granted horses protection under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law and required the Livestock Board to monitor horse exports at the Mexican border.
Although no horse meat processing plant exists in New Mexico, litigation by the state Attorney General’s Office continues over a plant that had been proposed by Valley Meat Co. in Roswell.
Last year, Valley Meat backed off its plan to process horse meat at a retrofitted cow processing plant and transferred the Roswell plant’s ownership to D’Allende Meats of Texas. The plant is now up for sale, according to attorney Blair Dunn.
New Mexico shipped more than 19,000 horses to a border crossing with Mexico in 2013, up from about 8,500 horses five years prior, according to the latest statistics available from the Livestock Board. The state does not track exported horses’ final destination.
Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Doña Ana, was the lone vote against tabling House Bills 410 and 411, which would have banned horse slaughter in New Mexico for human consumption and granted equines coverage by the state’s animal cruelty law. “The majority of my constituents view horses as companion animals,” he said.
The committee unanimously tabled House Bill 412, which would have required the Livestock Board to “monitor animals at the Mexican border that have been rejected for slaughter for human consumption.” McCamley noted that the board does not have the resources to monitor border crossings.
Dunn spoke against House Bills 410 and 411. He argued that the first bill, which would have also banned the transport in New Mexico of horses for food, would interfere with federal laws governing interstate commerce. “The abundance of horses remains an issue,” Dunn said. “As a state, we have to discuss it, especially with another drought year coming around. What do we do with these horses so they aren’t left to abandon or neglect?”
Valley Meat moved to process horse meat in New Mexico after Congress in 2011 funded U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors for horse slaughterhouses. Congress refused to fund USDA inspectors for horse meat processing in 2013 and 2014.