A meat plant in New Mexico has received a federal permit to begin processing horses, but some equine welfare advocates are suing the USDA Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) for granting the processing permit in the first place.

Horse slaughter has not taken place in the United States since 2007 when a combination of court rulings and legislation shuttered the last domestic equine processing plants. Prior to 2007, USDA personnel carried out inspections at horse processing plants until Congress voted to strip the USDA of funds to pay personnel conducting those federal inspections. Subsequently, Department of Agriculture funding bills contained amendments denying the USDA of funds to conduct horse processing plant inspections until Nov. 2011 when Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed an appropriations bill that did not contain language specifically forbidding the agency from using federal dollars to fund horse slaughter plant inspections.

Shortly after that bill became law, horse processing plants were proposed in several states, but most were never developed. However, last Friday (June 28), Atty. Blair Dunn, who represents the owners of the Valley Meats Co., LLC, in Roswell, N.M., announced that, after months of waiting, the company had received an FSIS permit, which allows the placement of USDA personnel at the plant to carry out horsemeat inspections.

In a written statement Dunn said, “Valley Meat Co., is encouraged that, after well over a year of delay, the process has finally reached completion. Valley will now begin final preparation to hire 40 to 100 employees over the coming weeks and months so that they may go to work pro