He says USDA initially seemed to encourage his application, but warned him he would have to stop slaughtering cattle to get the proper permits. The owner claims he stopped all cattle operations and shuttered the plant in anticipation of re-opening as a horse slaughter facility, but claims publicity about his plans influenced federal authorities who then “stonewalled” his efforts to get the required permits.

In addition to opposition to the horse slaughterhouse operation by animal activists, de los Santos claims New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vowed to oppose it, and a combination of political pressure and public outcry stymied USDA’s willingness to respond to his application, creating a financial holocaust for the company.

In spite of outspoken opposition to his request to resume horse slaughter operations, other groups, including some horse rescues agencies, livestock associations and the American Quarter Horse Association, support a return to domestic horse slaughter according to de los Santos. He claims a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter when it denied funds to USDA for inspection purposes back in 2006.

But a bill passed last year authorized the USDA to resume horse slaughterhouse inspections, which de los Santos says prompted his decision to apply for inspections, especially in view of reduced cattle operations. He also claims the number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled since domestic horse slaughter ceased, and that a return to horse slaughter for food would be more humane than the existing policies of the horse-for-food industry in North America, especially in Mexico.