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.
Source: Food Product Design by Josh Long
ALBUQUERQUE—A lawsuit that challenges the revival of horse slaughter in the United States illustrates the divisiveness of the practice even among the people who have considered the animals sacred for centuries: Native Americans.
The Chief of the Minikoju Band of the Cheyenne River Tribe Lakota Indians—Chief David Bald Eagle—is among the plaintiffs who are seeking to enjoin the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from authorizing the resumption of horse slaughter for human consumption after a years-long hiatus.
USDA officials have been accused of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by neglecting to prepare an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment before granting inspection to horse slaughter plants and implementing a residue testing program for the animals.
Horse slaughter is considered vile by at least some animal-rights organizations and Americans, including natives with roots that long predate the U.S. government in charge of overseeing the practice.
"The Lakota and Chief David Bald Eagle believe that abusing a horse, including slaughtering a horse for human consumption, will bring misfortune or death to the abuser," according to the 40-page lawsuit that was filed in New Mexico federal court. "The Lakota and Chief David Bald Eagle also believe that allowing the slaughter of horses on Native American land will not benefit the tribal nations, but instead will be an opportunity for more control by the non-native government and outside special interests."
Sandy Schaefer, a member of the Sioux tribe, is another plaintiff in the case. She resides in Roswell, N.M., where Valley Meat Company LLC plans to slaughter horses after USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service last month issued a "Grant of Inspection" to the business. According to the lawsuit, Schaefer considers horse slaughter "greedy, disrespectful and contrary to the Native Americans' relationship with its brother nation, the horse nation."
But individuals who support horse slaughter maintain that many horses are unwanted in America, including on Indian reservations, and that an overpopulation causes damage to the lands. James Stephenson, who is employed as a big game biologist by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in Washington, cites an overpopulation of wild/feral horses on the 1.3 million acres of land his employer manages and owns.
Concluded Stephenson: "I believe it is critical to allow horse slaughter again in the United States because without it, the Yakama Nation is suffering massive economic and environmental damage."
In 2007, Congress ended horse slaughter for human consumption. Four years later, lawmakers appropriated funding for inspection of horse slaughter facilities. At least six applications have been submitted to USDA to resume this activity. The Obama Administration has asked Congress to reinstate the ban. Although lawmakers haven't done so, the appropriations
committees in the House and Senate have voted to eliminate funds for inspection of horse slaughter facilities.
Last month, a committee of the 69-year-old National Congress of American Indians adopted a resolution, which supported the resumption of horse slaughter facilities and opposed legislation that is aimed to ban such activity. The resolution states, in part: "Whereas, the Economic Development/Natural Resources committee agrees that the horse market represents the only economically viable means of reducing the size of feral herds damaging reservation environments and would further assist
reservation horse producers who need to sustain their livestock operations, in the productive utilization of tribal and allotted lands".
The emotional debate over horse slaughter is likely to play out during an Aug. 2 hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo in Albuquerque, who will hear plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. USDA hasn't yet filed an
answer to the lawsuit, according to Bruce Wagman, a lawyer representing some of the animal-rights organizations who are named plaintiffs. USDA referred inquires to the U.S. Department of Justice, which didn't immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Front Range Equine Rescue and Horses for Life Foundation are among the
organizations that have sued USDA officials.
A. Blair Dunn, a lawyer in Albuquerque representing Valley Meat, said: "Valley thinks it is extremely disappointing that organizations such as HSUS do virtually nothing to actually care for horses and instead focus on spending money on lawsuits
against law abiding businesses and waste tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits against the government." Valley Meat refutes claims that the proposed facilities will threaten the environment.
"The true motivations of plaintiffs are not to protect the environment, or out of concern for human health," Dunn wrote in court documents, "but are to destroy the industry thru delay or attempting to delay long enough on the hope that Congress will again change the law."
Valley Meat faces increasing opposition to its plans from government agencies in New Mexico. Gary King, the Attorney General of New Mexico, has sought to intervene in the lawsuit to halt the Roswell plant from slaughtering equines. He previously raised concerns that animals destined for the slaughterhouse are treated with drugs that are unsafe for human consumption.
In another setback to the business, the New Mexico Environment Department announced it would hold a public hearing on Valley Meat's request to "discharge agricultural wastewater into surface impoundments in Chaves County, New Mexico." The state agency said it had reviewed more than 450 public comments, illustrating widespread interest in Valley Meat's plans to slaughter horses.
Dunn told The Associated Press the lack of a permit would not prevent the plant from opening as planned on Aug. 5.
Source: The Associated Press
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A Northwest Indian tribe urged federal officials to explain their position against slaughtering horses in the United States, calling it "absurd" to prohibit the practice. The question of equine slaughter has been a hot-button issue in the West, where horses hold an iconic role as loyal companions. Animal welfare groups have expressed outrage at the idea of resuming domestic slaughter, which Congress effectively banned in 2006 by cutting funding for federal inspection programs.
Others, including some animal welfare groups, contend the ban has resulted in increased horse abuse and abandonment and booming wild horse populations on state, federal and tribal lands.
No group is perhaps more affected by the matter than the Yakama Nation, a Washington tribe with an estimated 12,000 wild horses roaming across its sprawling reservation in the arid, south-central part of the state, Yakama Nation Chairman Harry Smiskin said in a March 29 letter to President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
"We don't understand why it is OK to slaughter many animals in this country -- certainly the White House and the USDA have meat on their cafeteria menus every day -- but for some reason horses are considered sacrosanct," Smiskin wrote. "We
should not manage these horses based on purely emotional arguments, story books or movies we all saw as children."
Smiskin argued the market for horse meat in other parts of the world, as well as the United States before World War II, could create jobs, humanely reduce overpopulated herds and feeds others, adding "it is absurd to prohibit it."
Smiskin declined to talk about the letter in a telephone interview Monday.
Congress lifted the slaughter ban in a spending bill the president signed into law in November. Now the USDA is preparing to inspect a southern New Mexico meat company that has been fighting for years for approval to convert its former cattle slaughter operation into a horse slaughterhouse.
Valley Meat Co. sued the USDA last year to resume the inspections, and the agency said last month it had no choice legally but to move forward with the application, as well as several others. However, the Obama administration threw a new twist into the more than yearlong debate with a statement urging Congress to reinstate the ban.
Several Northwest tribes have joined together in support of opening a horse slaughterhouse in the region to address booming wild horse populations on their reservations. The Yakama and Colville tribes in Washington, the Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes in Oregon, and Shoshone Bannock in Idaho say the horses destroy medicinal plants and damage habitat for other species.