A judge has blocked a Missouri company from obtaining a permit for a horse slaughter facility, at least temporarily.
Cole County Judge Daniel Green ordered the Department of Natural Resources wait to issue a wastewater permit to Rains Natural Meats, which had proposed to operate the facility near Gallatin, until after he hears the case.
The company submitted an application to DNR for the permit, which would allow it to collect and land-apply the wastewater from its proposed horse slaughter facility.
But three parties sued the DNR to block the permit. One is Barbara Sink, a Daviess County resident who is described in the lawsuit as “passionate about horses” and would be “aggrieved” if the horse slaughter plant were to open, and the other two are Missouri horse rescue groups.
The opponents — staunch opponents of horse slaughter — argue the facility would involve the slaughter of horses treated with a gamut of drugs that could be dangerous to human health.
“While the type of permit Rains applied for would allow the discharge of certain substances, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, oil and grease, the permit does not authorize the storage and land application of these equine drugs which are banned for use in humans and other animals,” said Steve Jeffery, attorney for the plaintiffs. “Consequently, DNR lacks legal authority to approve Rains’ application.”
David Rains, vice president of Rains Natural Meats, called the judge’s order “illegal” and said he was fighting to have it overturned. “It’s all done on emotion and not on science,” he said.
Rains said opponents of the proposed horse-slaughter plant have argued runoff from the facility would contaminate the water or soil in the area. But “all the blood and the offal goes
to the rendering companies, so none of it is dumped by any means,” he said.
His company has intervened in the lawsuit and said the next showdown will be at a hearing set for Thursday.
According to the petition filed by Jeffery, four horse veterinarians provided information that horses can receive more than 100
different drugs that are not authorized for use in humans, cattle, hogs or poultry. They also said studies show those drugs are contained in the wastewater at horse slaughter facilities.
USDA officials have suggested that Rains Natural Meats is on the verge of securing a permit from the Food Safety Inspection Service to open the horse slaughter plant. FSIS has already issued two other permits for horse-slaughter operations — one in New Mexico and another in Iowa.
But Rains said the USDA will not give his company a permit until the Missouri Department of Natural Resources green-lights the request to operate a “closed lagoon,” where workers would “clean and wash the animals down after they’re skinned.”
That permit is what’s at issue in the state lawsuit. DNR has until Sept. 5 to file a response to the lawsuit.
Rains Natural Meats hopes to turn their facility into a horse slaughterhouse.
GALLATIN, Mo. — A Daviess County man who wants to begin slaughtering and processing horse meat awaits a court hearing today could further delay his business attempt. David Rains has already modified the plant just east of Gallatin, Mo., to accept horses rather than the beef, pork, elk, bison and venison that Rains Natural Meats previously processed. Mr. Rains offered the News-Press an exclusive tour of the facility earlier this week.
The federal hearing in Albuquerque, N.M., pertains to a lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with Rains as one of the parties. The suit alleges that environmental reviews were not conducted regarding a New Mexico-issued permit to slaughter horses. The society is leading efforts to prevent a resumption to horse slaughtering that was banned by Congress seven years ago.
Rains Natural Meats first opened in 1998 to process antibiotic- and hormone-free organic products, but closed last year after Mr. Rains’ brother, Steve, underwent knee replacements. A bid to sell the business ended once prospects opened for a joint venture. “Then we made connections with the horse people,” he said, referring to a partnership with Chevaline, a Wyoming equine firm that would provide marketing assistance. “If you do horses, you can’t do anything else.”
Feral horses rounded up from Western states would supply the business. Mr. Rains said the switch has caused him to have pigs butchered elsewhere. Department regulations also restrict horse meat from being stored in the same freezer with other meat products, he said.
Rather than using a captive bolt-stunning gun before slaughter, Mr. Rains said he would use .410- caliber slugs as the primary
means to kill the horses — with .22-caliber Magnum cartridges as a secondary method. Once placed into a padded chute, Mr. Rains said a light would switch on to blind the horse in a USDA-recommended measure. All holding pens have been covered in plywood to reduce the odds of horses escaping through a gate.
The number of horses the facility could handle is undetermined. “We honest to goodness don’t know,” Mr. Rains said. “We could maybe do 10 a day. Right now we’re thinking 30 a week.” For now, the company remains idle, due to the inability to cross species in its meat processing. Depending on developments, it’s conceivable that Rains Natural Meats could choose a return to its previous processing.
“I’ve had people lined up to work,” he said. “All I’ve got to do is call them. The market’s there ... We’ve got to survive on a niche.” The horse meat would be available to domestic and international markets for pet and human food. Assisting regional and global hunger relief programs is another motivation.
“We actually have zoos that are interested in doing samples,” Mr. Rains said.
Horsemeat, he said, is higher in protein, lower in fat and higher in good Omega-3 fatty acids. Some Americans will choose to eat horse meat, he added, although its consumption is more widespread in Europe and Asia.
A Missouri Department of Natural Resources lagoon permit must also be renewed, in line with the procedures that the New
Mexico plant and another in Iowa must follow. Every horse would be tested for drug residue at a University of Missouri lab and USDA officials also would perform random testing for animal pharmaceuticals, with the rejections discarded.
The horses would come through certified buyers of the International Equine Business Association. The Native American tribes of Navajo, Hopi and Yakama also have joined the lawsuit in hopes of resolving excessive feral horse populations on their lands in New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Processing horse meat could start in two weeks, pending the government actions, Mr. Rains said. Amanda Good, the Humane Society’s Missouri director, said there are several reasons the organization opposes horse slaughtering. “Missouri can expect protests, negative press and trucks full of suffering horses being hauled into our state, risking accidents and injuries to motorists on our highways,” she said of one example.