ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that approval of the horse slaughterhouse in Roswell is coming "relatively soon."
Meanwhile some members of Congress are working to reinstate a ban on horse slaughter in the U.S.
Vilsack told The Associated Press it would take an act of Congress for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deny approval of Valley Meat in Roswell, which intends to open what will become the first horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. since the ban was lifted in 2011.
"If that doesn't happen, then we are duty-bound to do what needs to be done to allow that plant to begin processing," Vilsack said.
The statement comes a week after USDA inspectors visited the plant to ensure it was equipped to being horse slaughter. Inspectors told the owners everything looked good.
Meanwhile, some members of Congress including Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., are working toward reinstating the ban of slaughter in the U.S. Grisham is among the lawmakers who have signed onto the Safeguard American Food Exports Act which would prohibit the export of equines or their parts for the purpose of human consumption.
"I don't think horse slaughter is something we should do in United States for a multitude of reasons not least of which is food safety," Lujan Grisham said.
The congresswoman said she also has issue with Valley Meat company and what she has heard about their past safety record. According to inspectors all those issues have been resolved to their satisfaction.
Valley Meat's attorney A. Blair Dunn said as far as they are concerned the plant will open soon. They are in the final steps of hiring people to run the plant once they get the OK from USDA.
He also responded to the effort by Lujan Grisham and others to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter.
"We sincerely hope that as a member of the Ag Committee the representative actually goes out and listens to the agriculture community and talks to other animal rights activists who do support continuing the horse slaughter process," Dunn said. "What they are planning on doing is reinstating failed policy.
"Didn't work. We don't need to go back to it."
The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have threatened to sue if the USDA gives Valley Meat approval citing environmental concerns. The Department of Justice has told plant attorney's that they are preparing their case and will defend the USDA's actions in court.
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