The USDA has approved a horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico, and indications are they will also grant permission for similar operations in Missouri and Iowa.
Valley Meat Company of Roswell, New Mexico, was granted permission by federal officials to become the first operation in the United States licensed to process horses for their meat. The company wants to ship the meat to countries where people cook it or feed it to animals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reportedly took more than a year to consider the company’s request to process horses. At the center of the debate was whether horses are livestock or companion animals. Some proponents say the alternative is to continue to ship neglected and abandoned horses to facilities in Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
The fight may not be over, though, since the USDA is also reportedly lobbying to ban horse slaughter outright. Without that ban, and without cutting funding for inspection of horse slaughterhouses, the action stands.
The last horse slaughter plant in the U.S. reportedly operated in Illinois in 2007. Horse slaughter in this country ended when funding for inspection of the plants was cut.
"Since Congress has not yet acted to ban horse slaughter inspection, (the agriculture department) is legally required to issue a grant of inspection today to Valley Meats in Roswell, N.M., for equine slaughter," said USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe.
Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa reportedly applied to turn a former Louis Rich Plant there into a horse slaughter facility. If approved as expected, the southeastern Iowa facility could open before the end of the year.
The Iowa company, the New Mexico company and three others – in Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma – applied for USDA permits to operate horse slaughterhouses.