Missouri company prepares to process horse meat

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | 2:46 p.m. CST; updated 9:25 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GALLATIN — A small northwest Missouri company has been preparing to slaughter horses for meat after a federal appeals court lifted an emergency stay on U.S. horse slaughter operations.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday lifted a temporary motion that blocked horse slaughter plants from opening.

David Rains of Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin said Tuesday he has seven horses at its property for slaughter, but is still waiting for an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service before beginning work.

"We notified FSIS on Friday, requesting inspectors, and we have yet to have a response back from them," Rains said. "The plants ready to go. ... But it's a holiday and this is such a political basketball it's hard to make any guesstimations."

The USDA did not immediately return a call seeking comment about when the inspections would take place.

It was the third time in five months that Rains and two other companies prepared to open horse slaughtering operations. Congress lifted its ban on the practice two years ago. But in August the Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups sued to contest the USDA's permitting process.

A federal judge in New Mexico followed with a temporary restraining order, but U.S. District Judge Christine Armijo threw out the lawsuit in November, allowing all three companies to proceed. The animal protection groups then appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an emergency motion again blocking the plants from opening.

But the appellate court lifted that order Friday, saying the groups "failed to meet their burden for an injunction pending appeal." A final ruling in the case could take months. The Humane Society has said "the fight for America's horses is not over."

Rains, who said he has customers lined up for the horse meat, said the issue has been so contentious that he and his family have received death threats. He said a threatening letter was turned over to the FBI.

"We are taking it pretty seriously," he said.

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