Out of State Politico Ignores Science and Fact in Quest for Horse Killing
A Wyoming company looking to open a horse slaughter facility in Missouri says it has narrowed its search to a handful of sites in the western half of the state.
Community members strenuously objected to the plans in mid-March, and the company was forced to consider other options.
Sue Wallis, the company’s chief executive, said the community reaction was only one factor in Unified Equine’s decision to abandon the site.
The cost of converting the building, which was used to make gas pipelines, into a slaughter operation also proved to be too high.
“We had pretty much made the decision that was not the spot,” Wallis said.
Wallis said Unified Equine is now considering plans to retrofit a shuttered beef processing plant located in the western half of the state. She refused to provide a more specific location because the site has “not been secured.”
The plant is located in a rural area along a state highway and still has U.S. Department of Agriculture certification as a beef processing plant, Wallis said. The latter was important to the company, since the methods and equipment for processing cattle and horses are similar, Wallis said.
The new plant still has to undergo a separate inspection process specifically designed for horses before it can reopen, USDA officials said.
Wallis said Unified Equine decided to look at western Missouri because of large horse populations nearby.
“If you draw a 400- to 500-mile circle around where you are, you will have encapsulated 30 percent of the horses in the U.S.,” Wallis said.
Last year, Congress cleared the way for horse slaughter plants to reopen by removing a 5-year-old ban on funding federal horse meat inspections. Plants that are not inspected by the USDA cannot ship meat across state lines, which had effectively prohibited the commercial slaughtering of horses in the United States.
Most of the meat from the Unified Equine plant would be sent overseas or to Mexico, Wallis said.
Some of the products might be sold in the United States to ethnic markets where the meat is still considered a delicacy, she said.
Richard McIntyre, a spokesman for the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, said Unified Equine must first apply for a federal grant of inspection before it can begin operations. McIntyre said the department has not received any applications from Unified Equine yet.
It could be a while before any applications are approved, however.
USDA officials said a “significant amount of time” is needed to develop procedures for testing and inspecting horse processing facilities.
That is because an inspection of a horse processing plant has not occurred for six years.
Renee Bungart, a spokeswoman for Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said Unified Equine would likely have to apply for a number of permits related to pollution and construction, depending on the type of building and location.
Unified Equine could be the second plant to restart horse slaughter in the United States. Earlier in the year, New Mexico plant owner Rick De Los Santos announced he was retrofitting a facility to meet new USDA guidelines for horses.
The USDA has not granted De Los Santos a permit to begin operating his plant.
Those plans have been met by vocal opposition, including a letter from Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who urged the USDA to turn down a permit for the plant.
Wallis said she has been trying to work with officials in Missouri to avoid similar issues.
A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon said he would have to check on whether there has been any contact between the governor’s office and Unified Equine.
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