ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An employee of a southeastern New Mexico slaughterhouse that is seeking federal approval to slaughter horses has posted a video online showing him fatally shooting a horse in the head, sparking outrage among animal activists and prompting death threats to the Roswell meat company.
A maintenance contractor with Valley Meat Co. is shown in the video bringing a horse out of its pen, swearing at animal activists, then killing the horse with a single gunshot.
The Albuquerque Journal reports the state Livestock Board executed a search warrant Thursday at the Dexter home of Tim Sappington, who worked in maintenance for the company.
Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon, whose agency is supporting the Livestock Board, told the newspaper the shooting is being investigated as an animal cruelty case.
Rick De Los Santos, a part-owner of Valley Meat Co., said he has been inundated 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 told KOB-TV that Sappington was a contract worker who made 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 horse slaughterhouse in more than five years. The USDA earlier this month said it has no choice legally but to move forward with the application of Valley Meat and several other companies since Congress lifted a ban on the practice. And the company's attorney, A. Blair Dunn, said earlier this week a final inspection of the plant by USDA officials is expected in early April.
Many animal humane groups and public officials are 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 the plans. 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.