ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Federal officials cleared the way Friday for a return to domestic horse slaughter, granting a southeastern New Mexico companys application to convert its cattle facility into a horse processing plant.
In approving Valley Meat Co.s plans to produce horse meat, Department of Agriculture officials also indicated they would grant similar permits to companies in Iowa and Missouri as early as next week.
With the action, the Roswell, N.M., company becomes the first operation in the nation licensed to process horses into meat since Congress effectively banned the practice seven years ago.
But the companys attorney Blair Dunn said Friday that he remained skeptical about Valley Meat Co.s chances of opening any time soon, because the USDA must send an inspector to oversee operations and two animal rights groups have threatened to file lawsuits to block the opening.
The company has been fighting for the permit for than a year, sparking an emotional debate over whether horses are livestock or domestic companions.