Joining the fray opposed to horse slaughter is actor Robert Redford and former United Nations Ambassador, U.S. Energy Secretary and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a New Mexico native. This week the duo announced the formation of an animal protection foundation to fight not only the opening of the New Mexico horse slaughter facility but similar plants in Iowa, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Redford and Richardson announced last week the formation of the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, an animal protection foundation whose first act was to seek to join a federal lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups to block the planned Aug. 5 opening of Valley Meat and another recently approved horse slaughterhouse in Iowa.

Redford said he has been passionate about horses all of his life, and his love of the animals inspired his famous movies "The Horse Whisperer" and "The Electric Cowboy."

Redford said he and Richardson have both donated seed money to the group but declined to say how much. Dunn, the Roswell plant's attorney, questioned why groups like Redford and Richardson's don't "use their money to actually save animals instead of harassing people in their lawful business?"

While Valley Meat of Roswell was the first to seek and granted approval from USDA to open a horse slaughter facility, a second facility, in Sigourney, Iowa, received the green light from the federal agency a few days later.

“Horse slaughter has no place in our culture,” Redford said in a statement. “It is cruel, inhumane, and perpetuates abuse and neglect of these beloved animals.”

Redford is a New Mexico resident and owns property near Santa Fe.

But while the state, animal rights groups and high profile figures oppose horse slaughter practices, others support it saying it is the most humane method of disposing of unwanted, aged and often abandoned horses that often suffer from starvation or are left to face predators like wolves and mountain lions and die without the ability to defend themselves.