SIGOURNEY — A new horse slaughter facility has awoken a national debate about the humane treatment of animals and the effects of horse slaughter on the environment and food.
From 2007-11, horse slaughter was prohibited in the U.S. after Congress stopped funding inspections of horses intended for slaughter and human consumption. But Congress didn’t include that prohibition in its fiscal year 2012 appropriated funds.
“Therefore, if an establishment meets and complies with all of the FSIS requirements for equine slaughter and processing, FSIS must grant federal inspection to the establishment,” according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Now, several facilities across the nation have applied for inspections, including one in Sigourney, Responsible Transportation LLC, which is owned by Keaton Walker, Chase Greiner and Travis Bouslog.
But animal rights advocates are now suing the USDA, stating that the agency failed “to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.
The parties involved in the lawsuit allege that horse slaughter harms the environment and horse meat is unfit for human consumption due to the drugs horses are administered throughout their lives.
Walker said while in college several years ago, he went to a horse sale and found out that unwanted horses were being loaded into trailers without the owner’s knowledge.
“The original plan was to create a more humane livestock trailer to transport horses,” he said. “However, we were not able to secure any interest in our service. The business model evolved, and we decided to raise the capital to purchase our own facility.”
They did just that six months ago and hope to have it up and running in a month.
Sigourney Mayor Pat Miletich said the facility sat vacant for five years before the three men purchased it.