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Horse Slaughterhouse To Open In Western Missouri?

Sara Yeomans

A Wyoming company announced that it will reopen a closed meat processing plant in western Missouri for horse slaughter and horse meat processing.

The company, Unified Equine, plans to reopen the plant in Rockville, Mo. by the end of the summer.

The facility was a USDA-inspected meat-processing plant for many years, so it has waste water handling systems in place for the new facility, according to the official release. It is currently being retrofitted in order to process horses for meat according to the standards developed by the International Equine Business Association, an organization whose mission is "to mutually protect the international horse industry and to promote the use of horses and equine products in commercial enterprises."

The thought of horse slaughter and horse meat may offend American sensibilities. But the meat is widely used in Europe, Mexico and Asia, with a corresponding "niche ethnic market" here in the U.S. until 2007, when the last horse meat slaughterhouse in the country was shuttered.

Since then, the number of U.S. horses sent to other countries for slaughter has nearly tripled. Last year, 68,429 horses were shipped to Mexico and 64,652 to Canada, compared to total exports of 37,884 in 2006, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. When horses are shipped out of the country, neither the U.S. horse industry nor the USDA can monitor how the horses are handled, increasing the risk of practices deemed inhumane.

Unwanted or unused horses are at a high risk of being neglected or abused, and the rates of reported abuse and abandonment have been steadily on the rise in the U.S. since 2006, when Congress cut funding for USDA inspection programs, effectively banning horse slaughter. Last year, a bill passed that authorized the USDA to resume horse slaughterhouse inspections, hence the forthcoming Rockville plant.

Opponents of horse slaughter argue that more slaughtering contributes to, rather than alleviates, the problems of horse abandonment and neglect. Instead many feel the government should focus on controlling populations so there are not too many horses to be properly cared for.

Unified Equine CEO Sue Wallis said:

"We are excited to be bringing jobs and opportunity to rural Missouri and even happier to provide a humane and viable option to the horse industry, decimated by misguided efforts to end humane horse slaughter."

The plant is supposed to bring 50 jobs to the town of just over 150 residents.

The taste of horse meat is described as "slightly sweet, tender, low in fat and high in protein."

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