March 15 (Bloomberg) -- The lawyer for a New Mexico meat plant that wants to be the first to slaughter horses in the U.S. since 2007 says the facility may be operational in three weeks.
“We’re getting ready to go,” A. Blair Dunn, attorney for Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, New Mexico, said today in a phone interview. The plant may eventually have about 100 employees processing as many as 100 horses a day for export, he said.
The company is one of several that have applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to slaughter horses, a practice that ended in 2007 after Congress defunded government inspections at the facilities. That measure lapsed in 2011.
The USDA, which would regulate the plant, didn’t immediately comment on the lawyer’s assertion. The agency this month said that once the company meets technical requirements and inspector training has taken place, “the department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections.”
Four lawmakers this week introduced legislation that would ban horse-killing for human consumption in the U.S. and prohibit transporting the animals outside the country for slaughter. The USDA this month said it encouraged Congress to reinstate the ban on funding inspections.
The legislation was sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, and Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, along with Representatives Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois.
Supermarkets in Europe in recent weeks have pulled from their shelves products such as frozen burgers and lasagna after they were found to contain horse meat without proper labeling. Companies involved include Nestle SA and Tesco PLC.
The prospect of revived horse slaughter in the U.S. has raised similar concern about co-mingling, even as producers say a potential equine-processing industry would be separate from the much larger beef, pork and poultry markets.
Valley Meat has been accused by the animal-welfare group Front Range Equine Rescue of allowing unsanitary conditions at the proposed horse-slaughter facility when it previously processed cattle. The organization said government documents it obtained include allegations of maggot-infested piles of decaying animals as high as 15 feet on the property. The plant, through Dunn, has denied the allegations.
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