As the European horsemeat scandal unfolds, the controversy continues stateside with opposing factions embroiled in a never-ending argument over the ethics of legally-sanctioned horse slaughter.
TakePart previously reported on the efforts of Valley Meat Company owner, Rick de los Santos, who recently sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for obstructing the opening of his horse slaughter facility in New Mexico. It was a lawsuit that reignited a long-standing debate about the morality of killing the animals for pet or human consumption. But now one of de los Santos’ former employees just poured gasoline all over the fire.
The Associated Press reports that Tim Sappington, a one-time contract worker with Valley Meat Company, filmed himself shooting a horse in the head, as an apparent protest against the animal rights activists who had challenged the opening of Valley Meat’s horse slaughter facility.
The incident reportedly took place on Sappington’s private property and on his own time. The video shows him releasing one of his own horses from its pen, and then turning towards the camera to state, “All you animal activists, (expletive) you.” Sappington then shoots the animal at point blank range.
The video is too graphic to post here, but it can currently be viewed on Youtube.
Sappington actually filmed the incident over a year ago, but the video’s recent discovery has set off a maelstrom of controversy for his (now former) company. In light of the shooting, Sappington was reportedly let go from Valley Meat this week.
Valley Meat owner Rick de Los Santos reported to the news agency that as a result of the video having gone viral, he’s been the target of death threats. “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 added that he and his company didn’t have anything to do with the video and he wasn’t even aware of its existence until recently.
The New Mexico Livestock Board did launch an inquiry into the shooting, suspecting it may have qualified as an act of animal abuse. However, Sappington reportedly killed his horse for the eventual purpose of eating it—and that’s not illegal in the state of New Mexico.
Valley Meat Co.’s legal wrangling with the USDA was recently settled; the federal agency agreed to resume the inspections necessary for the company to begin horsemeat production.
Once that happens, the horse slaugher facility will ship its products to Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia for human consumption, while some will remain in the U.S. to become a pet food ingredient.
Though U.S. horse slaughter sanctions were quietly lifted in 2011, only recently have Valley Meat and a handful of others applied to become manufacturers of equine meats.
The ethical issues behind horse killing are complex, most notably because horses in this country are thought of as companion animals. But in addition, some animal activists like Nancy Perry, a lobbyist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, say that horse slaughter is uniquely inhumane, no matter what safeguards are in place.
Perry recently told Bloomberg that because horses don’t keep their heads stationary during slaughter, as other livestock do, they can remain conscious throughout much of the process.
Still, some livestock associations and even some horse rescuers contend that legally-sanctioned domestic slaughter is necessary; they believe it’s the only way to prevent the proliferation of horse abuse and abandonment that emerged during the years stateside slaughter was outlawed.
If horsemeat becomes lawfully distributed for human consumption in the U.S., would you make it a part of your diet? Let us know in the Comments.