While the discovery of horse meat in beef products provoked outrage and churned stomachs on both sides of the Atlantic, a New Mexico company is counting on US consumers to intentionally purchase the equine meat. The Valley Meat Company says it plans to begin slaughtering horses for meat next Monday, in spite of protests, lawsuits and—earlier this week—an arson attack that damaged five refrigeration units.
Horse meat has been a controversial issue as of late as it popped up not only in ground beef, but as a delicacy on some restaurant menus. Animal rights activists and some meat eaters have protested against the inclusion of horse meat, arguing that the animals are not raised for human consumption, and are therefore unregulated by the USDA.
Animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, the Horses for Life Foundation and Return to Freedom have joined forces in a law suit filed against the USDA. The suit wants to prevent the Agriculture Department from inspecting horse meat for human consumption, primarily the Valley Meat Company. The lawsuit alleges that the Agriculture Department does not require Valley Meat to thoroughly test the horse meat, which could be contaminated with substances and hormones dangerous to humans, as the animals were not raised on a farm for meat.
But, despite the arson and the lawsuit, the Valley Meat Company plans to slaughter its first horse on Monday as planned. The lawsuit will begin hearings on Friday, and the arson case is still being investigated.