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Iowa Watchdog

Iowa town becomes site of second U.S. horse slaughterhouse

7/3/2013

DES MOINES – A small town in southeast Iowa gained initial approval Tuesday to become home the nation’s second horse slaughterhouse that will produce meat for human consumption, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday.

Iowa becomes home to the nation’s second horse slaughterhouse.

Iowa becomes home to the nation’s second horse slaughterhouse.

Responsible Transportation of Sigourney met the USDA’s initial requirements and will have to pass an onsite inspection before beginning operations. The company has been renovating its facility for the past six months and officials hope to employ 25 workers during the first year of operation, said Keaton Walker, president Responsible Transportation.

The facility will ship the meat to zoos and oversees for consumption, Keaton said.

“We believe our company will provide a sustainable solution to the unwanted horse problem,” Keaton said in an email. “We recognize horse meat is not something commonly consumed by Americans, but we hope that people can respect the different choices that other cultures make regarding their diets.”

Martini Fest

The Sigourney plant is the second facility in less than a week to gain approval from the federal agency. USDA officials were forced to take action because Congress let a law banning funding for such inspections lapse in fiscal year 2012, they said in a statement.

Another facility in Roswell, N.M., got the green light to proceed with its operation. A third application in Kansas is awaiting approval.

“Since Congress has not yet acted on to ban horse slaughter inspection, (this agency) is legally required to issue a grant of inspection today to Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, IA for equine slaughter,” the USDA said in a written statement.

“The administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter. Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law,” it said.

Congress approved a ban on funding for the inspections of such facilities in 2006. Without inspection, such facilities were unable to operate. The measure was effective through fiscal year 2011.

Without action, USDA officials must comply with federal rules requiring them to grant federal inspections if a facility meets all requirements for horse slaughtering and processing, according to the statement.

Iowa U.S. senators Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Officials with Responsible Transportation also did not return requests for comment.

The company’s mission is to “improve the quality of life of the unwanted horse population through the development and application of innovative livestock handling practices, utilization of professionally supervised and government regulated euthanasia processes, and removal of the agonizing voyages to processing facilities outside of the United States,” according to its website.

Additionally, the website said, “An unwanted horse may be a horse the owner can no longer afford to feed, a horse that is too dangerous to handle, or a horse with injuries, lameness, or illness.”

Contact Sheena Dooley at dooley@iowawatchdog.org. Sheena Dooley is the Iowa bureau chief for Watchdog.org, where this story first appeared.

Upper Iowa