Horse slaughter battle heats up

Future of facility in the Ozarks may hinge on legislative actions by

Deirdre Shesgreen

Apr. 14, 2012|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

WASHINGTON — Sue Wallis sounds at once confident and nervous when it comes to legislation in Congress to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

In a recent interview, the Wyoming state lawmaker and entrepreneur touted the pro-horse-slaughter lobby’s firepower in Washington. And she said opponents, including animal-rights heavyweights like the Humane Society of the United States, are on the defensive.

But Wallis also said she and her nascent company, Unified Equine, are working against the clock, scrambling to get a horse-slaughter facility up and running in southwest Missouri before there’s any vote in Washington that would ban the practice.

“We’re not going to be pushed into doing something that would compromise in any way, shape or form the very important considerations around horse welfare,” said Wallis. But after Mountain Grove residents objected to Unified Equine’s plans to open a plant there earlier this month, she said “we’re working as fast as we can” to find another suitable location for a facility in Missouri.

In Washington, the legislative gears are grinding — slowly — on legislation that would ban the purchase, sale or transport of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption.

Called the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, the bill is sponsored Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and has 26 co-sponsors. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., has introduced a companion measure in the House, with 160 other lawmakers signing on.

Both sides have deployed top lobbyists to do battle over the anti-slaughter proposal — and a parallel effort to reinstate a temporary ban on horse slaughter.

The seeds for this fight were planted last fall, when Congress nixed a long-time provision barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using federal funds to inspect any meat processing plants that slaughtered horses. Plants that aren’t inspected by the USDA cannot ship meat across state lines, so the provision, which had been in place since 2006, had effectively ended domestic horse slaughter.