Gallatin, Missouri, the county seat of Daviess County in northwest Missouri and a town of 2.77 square miles and a shrinking population is the home of Rains Natural Meats, classified as a "butcher shop." Rains' owners have been waiting for over a year for a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve its plans to slaughter horses.
According to an article in the business section of The Washington Post, Feds recently approved a horse slaughterhouse in Roswell, New Mexico to be run by Valley Meat Company, a plant that would become the first to operate since Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for plant inspections. The issuance of a permit for Rains in Missouri and Responsible Transportation in Iowa is expected shortly, according to the article.
In 2011 funding was reinstated for federal inspections. The Obama Administration's request to ban horse slaughter rests on Congress acting on his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year which again would eliminate the funding.
In a letter sent to THE JOPLIN INDEPENDENT, Maureen Linehan, spokesperson for the New York-based ASPCA, claims that horse slaughter is inherently cruel. "The methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as the horses often endure repeated stuns or blows and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter and dismemberment," Linehan says.
While slaughterhouses stand by their belief that horse meat is safe for human consumption, Lineman disagrees, calling attention to the administration of drugs prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminisration during the horses' lifespan. Valley Meat Co. wants to ship horse meat to countries where people cook with it or feed it to animals. However, there is no reassurance that is their only motivation.
The USDA has noted that more than 92 percent of American horses sent to slaughter are in good condition. In a comment on Rains' Facebook page Curt Lukens believes that "the reason that special measures have to be taken to ensure no stolen horses are killed is because horses are stolen and have been killed at previous plants."
Speaking on behalf of the Roswell plant, Susan Humphrey of South Dakota calls slaughter "a practical solution."
"I'm glad this plant is finally going to be up and running," she says. "168,00 horses went to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered in 2012. There is a demand for the meat...I'm sure there are horses going to slaughter that would make good horses, but if no one else bids on them, that means no one else wants them [but the kill buyers]. There are horses whose owners can't give them away. If there is no longer a slaughter option, horses go the way of thousands of unwanted cats and dogs killed in this country each day at pounds."
That the slaughterhouses' operations will be short-lived or completely curtailed also may depend on passage of legislation by the House and Senate. Currently both groups have included language prohibiting the use of tax dollars for horse slaughter inspections in their agriculture appropriations bills slated for floor action this month, July 2013.
For a previous JOPLIN INDEPENDENT article go here