The argument on whether processing horses through a meat processing facility is lawful in the United States or whether the practice is inhumane or possibly even a threat to human health heated up last week as a new chapter unfolded in the ongoing fight to prevent a Roswell, New Mexico, slaughterhouse from beginning operations in the immediate future.

Valley Meat Company is now facing a new challenge after USDA is considering whether the company is required to have a federal permit to discharge waste water under the federal Clean Water Act.

An attorney for the company claims this latest roadblock to opening the former cattle processing plant's as a horse slaughterhouse is an attempt by the Obama administration to put "politics over policy" and one more attempt in a steady stream of roadblocks designed to keep the company from lawfully operating. 

Blair Dunn, the attorney who represents Valley Meat Company, has long charged the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of dragging its feet and even changing the rules to slow the process of obtaining federal permission to operate the facility as a horse slaughterhouse because of political pressure from animal activist groups and politicians who categorically are opposed to the practice.

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The company's application to resume domestic horse slaughter ignited a national debate last year over whether horses are to be considered livestock or domestic companions. If approved, the company plans to process horse meat for distribution to foreign buyers in countries that allow human consumption of horse meat and also to buyers who provide meat orders to zoo operations.

Dunn says this latest attempt to delay the plant's opening citing a need for permits to discharge waste that potentially violates the Clean Water Act is nothing more than a ploy introduced by opponents to the slaughtering of horses. He charges the White House is playing politics and pressuring USDA to delay final action that would authorize the company to begin horse slaughter operations.

Dunn says the plant doesn't discharge any waste into water, and such a permit was never needed during the 20 years the plant was slaughtering cattle.

“If these were not requirements for a cattle facility, they cannot now suddenly become requirements for a horse facility,” Dunn said in an email to David Glass, who is one of the attorneys representing the USDA against a lawsuit by Valley Meat over delays in approving its application.