At first, the idea of horse slaughter seems distasteful. When considering the bigger picture, however, it becomes apparent the practice actually is a needed option.
Northwest Missouri is in the midst of this ongoing controversy. Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in preparation to receive regulatory approval to slaughter horses.
Powered by emotion, Congress banned slaughter in 2007. However, the results proved disastrous for horses and horse lovers. Few humane options remained for animals that became old or sick.
Local owners had to try to find a buyer who would transport the animals to Mexico or Canada. The next-best alternative was to kill them at home, creating an environmental problem of disposing of large carcasses. Authorities reported an increase in abandoned and neglected horses.
Congress reversed course in 2011, voting to permit slaughter as a humane end-of-life option. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., provided a key vote for the move, noting a need in Missouri.
The USDA finally approved the opening of a slaughter plant in New Mexico this summer, followed by another plant opening in Iowa.
Daviess County might seem like an unlikely place for horse slaughter, until you consider it is home to Missouri's largest Amish settlement, where horses are common in everyday life.
The Rains family has dealt in specialty meats in the past, including antibiotic-free and hormone-free pork and beef. The plant is a small, family operation so only a limited number of horses would pass through.
Most of the meat is expected to be exported and some may be directed to alternative markets, such as zoos.
Thorough inspection and adherence to regulations related to product safety and slaughter practices are essential for this project. The opening of the two other plants means there is no immediate rush to approve the Gallatin facility.
We urge the Rains family to be upfront about the process and keep the public informed. Once that happens, we believe the region will be receptive to a facility that will add economic activity in a rural community while providing a humane option for horse owners.
Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Distributed by the Associated Press.