Cows Denied Water, Left to Freeze; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
July 5, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

San Miguel County, N.M.

PETA has obtained two U.S. Department of Agriculture reports (here and here) revealing recent, persistent violations of law at High Plains Processing in San Miguel County, where cows were left without food or water nine times this year—including in February, when inspectors also found 37 cows with ice hanging off their fur and coming out of their noses after they were left out in subzero temperatures without shelter. In response, the group sent a letter today to Fourth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Thomas Clayton calling on him to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the facility and the workers responsible.

“These disturbing reports show that the animals endured frigid temperatures, hunger, and thirst while being held for slaughter,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of these cows and is urging everyone to help prevent more animals from suffering in slaughterhouses by going vegan.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—points out that cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do. The group is pursuing charges under state law, because federal officials haven’t prosecuted any inspected slaughterhouses for acts of neglect such as those at High Plains Processing since at least 2007.

For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Clayton follows.

July 5, 2022

The Honorable Thomas Clayton

Fourth Judicial District Attorney

Dear Mr. Clayton:

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office (and the proper local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file suitable criminal charges against High Plains Processing Company LLC and the worker(s) responsible for leaving cows without food or water on at least nine dates this year at its slaughterhouse located at 27 Sale Barn Rd., outside Las Vegas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached reports, which state the following:

February 4, 2022: At approximately 0815 hours … [t]he water was frozen solid in all five tanks. There was no feed in the pens and the ground was frozen. There is ice hanging from [the animals’] hair and coming out of their nose. … [A]t 0730 hrs. the temperature was -8 degrees F. The[re] is about 6 inches of snow on the ground. The cattle have nowhere to seek shelter. There are 37 cattle on the property. … The failure of the establishment to provide feed and water was documented on two other occasions … 1/25/2022 and … 1/26/2022. Establishment Manager Art Albillar stated verbally that they would get some hay and buy tank heaters. In the interim they broke the ice … so the cattle could gain access to the water. Water heaters were purchased but never installed. The establishment failed to implement or provide adequate corrective actions.1

June 23, 2022: Your establishment has failed to effectively implement your proffered corrective actions related to humane handling regulatory requirements as follows:

    • March 7, 2022 … for not providing access to water (water frozen solid) for animals held onsite.
    • May 24, 2022 … for not providing access to water to animals held onsite.
    • May 25, 2022 … for not providing feed for animals held over 24 hours.
    • June 2, 2022 … for not providing access to water to animals held onsite.
    • June 17, 2022 … for not providing access to water to animals held onsite.
    • June 22, 2022 … for not providing access to water to animals held onsite.2

This conduct appears to violate NMSA § 30-18-1(B)(2). Importantly, FSIS’ action carries no criminal or civil penalties and does not preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouse workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals.3 Given that the agency has not initiated a criminal prosecution of a licensed slaughterhouse for inhumane handling since at least 2007, charges under state law are these victims’ only chance at a measure of justice.

Please let us know what we might do to assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.


Colin Henstock

Assistant Manager of Investigations

1FSIS District 40 Manager Jennifer Beasley-McKean, D.V.M., Notice of Intended Enforcement, High Plains Processing (February 4, 2022) Accessed June 30, 2022.

2FSIS District 40 Manager Jennifer Beasley-McKean, D.V.M., Notice of Suspension, High Plains Processing (June 23, 2022) Accessed June 30, 2022.

3See Nat’l. Meat Assoc. v. Harris, 132 S. Ct. 965, 974 n.10 (2012) (“States may exact civil or criminal penalties for animal cruelty or other conduct that also violates the [Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA)]. See [21 U.S.C.] §678; cf. Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, LLC, 544 U.S. 431, 447 (2005), holding that a preemption clause barring state laws ‘in addition to or different’ from a federal Act does not interfere with an ‘equivalent’ state provision. Although the FMIA preempts much state law involving slaughterhouses, it thus leaves some room for the States to regulate.”).

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