Rockville, Mo., might be the perfect community for the nation's only horse-slaughtering plant, but only because there's not much of a community left.
Earlier this year, Sue Wallis, a Wyoming rancher, tried to open a horse-slaughtering plant near Mountain Grove, Mo. Angry residents, however, shouted her down at public meetings.
Wallis packed up and left.
Now Wallis' company, Unified Equine, is targeting the tiny hamlet of Rockville, about 100 miles south of Kansas City in Bates County, where similar opposition seems unlikely.
The company this week announced plans to renovate a shuttered beef-packing plant near Rockville by the end of the summer.
The operation would be the first horse-slaughtering plant in the country since Congress restored funding for inspections of horse-slaughtering operations last year.
"We believe this is a win-win for both horses and people," Wallis said in statement.
Wallis said the plant would bring 50 jobs to the community of 150 people.
The company would slaughter hundreds of horses each day, exporting the meat to Europe where it is considered a specialty.
Cynthia MacPherson, an attorney who fought the plant in Mountain Grove, warned that if the plans in Rockville are successful, Missouri "would be known as the horse-slaughter capital of the world."
Slaughtering horses for human consumption was in efect banned in the United States in 2006 when Congress stopped funding U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horse meat.
But last year, Congress restored the funding. That meant the slaughtering of horses was legal again.
Opponents say the practice is inhumane and offensive.
"We have a special bond with horses in America," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "The nation was settled on the back of the horse."
Pacelle also noted that horses reared in the U.S. are injected with pain killers, antibiotics and other medication and shouldn't be consumed.
"Cattle are bred for food," MacPherson said. "Horses are not."
Proponents, however, say that unwanted horses risk being abandoned and neglected. Some suffer crueler fates in nature than in a slaughter plant.
In the statement, Wallis said the plant would "provide a humane and viable option to the horse industry, decimated by misguided efforts to end humane horse slaughter."
Norman Williamson, who owns the Down Home Butcher Shop, near Rockville, said people have abandoned dozens of horses in the area.
"People can't afford to feed them," he said.
Williamson said most of the land in Rockville — known for its prime duck hunting — has been bought up by hunting clubs.
The town, he said, has a convenience store and bar, but little else, not even a mayor...
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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