March 22 (Bloomberg) -- An employee of a New Mexico company that has sparked outrage for its plans to slaughter horses is being investigated for animal cruelty in connection with a video in which he taunts animal welfare advocates while killing a horse.
Tim Sappington, 54, may face charges over the video, said Bobby Pierce, the deputy director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, an Albuquerque-based law enforcement agency. Sappington is the only employee of Valley Meat Co. near Roswell, which is seeking to become the first company to run a horse-slaughter plant in the U.S. since 2007.
"It’s extreme cruelty, a penalty, to maliciously kill an animal," said Pierce, who said he believes charges will probably result from the investigation, which began yesterday. Valley Meat said it is evaluating Sappington’s continued employment.
Posted on the Internet several months ago, the video was widely circulated among animal-welfare activists this week after a March 19 Bloomberg News story on Valley Meat that featured Sappington. The video shows Sappington looking into the camera, addressing an expletive to animal rights activists and then firing a pistol-like device between the eyes of the horse, which falls to the ground trembling.
"We’re horrified by the video, and we are glad to hear that there’s an investigation going on," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the U.S. in Washington. "It appears this was made for publicity’s sake and to taunt animal lovers."
Sappington, who said he eats horse meat two to three times a week, said he killed the animal for food. The full video, which wasn’t posted online, shows him skinning and gutting the animal, too, he said.
"I killed that animal for my consumption," Sappington said in a telephone interview, before referring calls to an attorney. "If I had shot that thing in the guts or the legs or beat it and left it in the pasture for the coyotes to get at, it’d be a different discussion. I shot that for my human, my personal, consumption."
It is legal to kill livestock for food, Pierce said.
"If he claims he was killing it for his own food, the investigation would take a different turn," Pierce said.