An Internet video that shows a meat company employee swearing at animal activists before shooting a horse in the head highlights the increasing emotional intensity of the national debate over whether a New Mexico plant should be allowed to resume domestic horse slaughter.
Animal rights groups this week uncovered a video posted by a former employee of Valley Meat Co., which has been fighting the United States Department of Agriculture for more than a year for approval to convert its former cattle slaughter operation into a horse slaughterhouse.
Valley Meat Co. owner Rick De Los Santos said the employee, who was let go this week, was reacting to harassment by animal rights activists who have targeted the plant since its plans were made public about a year ago. The harassment has worsened since the video, made a year ago, was uncovered this week, he said.
“We are getting lots of threats: that we better watch our back, watch who is around us, that they hope our kids and families get killed, ugly stuff,” De Los Santos said Friday.
The video shows Tim Sappington of Dexter leading a seemingly healthy horse by a rope to a spot in a dirt road. He strokes his nose and neck, says, “All you animal activists, (expletive) you,” then shoots it in the head.
Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon said the department is bracing for things to get worse as the company nears a final inspection by federal regulators with the hope of opening horse slaughter operations next month.
The video, he said, “didn’t help anything,” noting the issue is “very emotional.”
De Los Santos said he has hired a security firm to guard his company and its workers.
The New Mexico Livestock Board has launched an inquiry into the shooting as a possible case of animal abuse. But the sheriff noted that it’s not illegal for a horse owner to kill the animal and eat it, saying it’s no different than a farmer who slaughters his pig and consumes the meat. That’s because horses are considered livestock and no different under the law than cattle or pigs.
“Everybody is up in arms,” Coon said. “The sad part is - or maybe it’s good for him- there is not a law that says you can’t slaughter your livestock for consumption. And he is a horse eater.”
No one answered a telephone listing for Sappington in Dexter on Friday.
Editor’s Note: We, at Byline Beat, have chosen to exclude the graphic video from our report because of it’s heinous nature and out of respect for our audience. We have viewed the material and, regardless of any particular stance on the issue, find it to be a disgusting, inexcusable means of “protest.” - CW