Published March 22, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An employee of a southeastern New Mexico slaughterhouse has posted a video online showing him fatally shooting a horse in the head.
That has sparked outrage among animal activists and led to death-threat calls to the Roswell meat company, which is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get a horse slaughter plant in the area.
A maintenance contractor with Valley Meat Co. is shown in the video bringing a horse out of its pen, swearing at activists and then killing the horse with a single gunshot, KOB-TV reported Thursday.
Rick De Los Santos, a part-owner of Valley Meat Co., said he has been slammed with hate calls and death threats since the video hit the Internet.
"I didn't have anything to do with that video. That's the honest truth," De Los Santos said.
De Los Santos said the contract worker, Tim Sappington, shot the video on his own time and at his own home.
"He shot a horse. That's what he eats. It's not against the law to slaughter your own horse," De Los Santos said. "Now, putting it on YouTube, I would not have done that."
Last year, De Los Santos sued the USDA to resume the inspections necessary to open what would be the nation's first new horse slaughterhouse in more than five years.
The suit alleges USDA inaction on the company's application was driven by emotional political debates and has cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many animal humane groups and public officials were outraged at the idea of resuming domestic horse slaughter, including New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
But others -- including some horse rescuers, livestock associations and the American Quarter Horse Association -- support a return to domestic horse slaughter.
They point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for federal inspection programs in 2006.