ROCKVILLE — A Wyoming-based company plans to build a horse-slaughtering plant in Rockville in western Missouri, after its first choice in southwest Missouri was met with fierce opposition from residents.
Unified Equine Missouri announced Thursday that a former beef packing plant near Rockville, about 100 miles south of Kansas City in Bates County, is being renovated, and the company expects to open the operation by the end of summer. It is expected to bring 50 jobs to a town with only 150 residents.
Unified Equine originally sought to open the plant near Mountain Grove in southwest Missouri, but angry residents packed public meetings earlier this year to oppose the proposal.
The company said its plant could eventually slaughter up to 800 horses a day, with most of the meat going to Europe, The Kansas City Star reported.
If the Rockville operation opens, it would be the first horse-slaughtering plant in the country since Congress restored funding for inspections of horse slaughter operations last year.
Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state legislator who is head of Unified Equine, said the company is excited to bring jobs to rural Missouri.
But a Mountain Grove attorney who led the opposition to the plant in her town is vowing to take the fight to Rockville.
"She (Wallis) thinks it's a done deal — it's not," Cynthia MacPherson said. "We're going to do what we can do to stop her. But we'll need the town's help."
One resident who lives near the proposed Rockville plant supports the operation.
"Any time that something creates a job around here, it's a good thing," said Mike Williamson, who lives about 8 miles outside of town and raises horses. "We also need places to take our horses at some point."
Others aren't so sure the plant is a good idea.
"I just don't like the idea of a horse packing plant," said Karol Smith, who lives about 6 miles east of the hamlet. "It's, just, horses. It doesn't seem right."
Critics and animal rights activists contend horses aren't meant to be eaten and that slaughtering plants create environmental problems.
Horse slaughter proponents argue that the plants are used to kill old, sick horses that are dying from neglect or abandonment. They say the horses are shipped under horrible conditions to Mexico to be slaughtered, or sometimes dumped into wild herds.