2011-12-07 / Front Page

Horse Slaughtering Legislation

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION –In 2006, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to prohibit USDA inspections of horse meat and slaughtering plants that processed horse meat; the last horse slaughter house closed in 2007. This fall, Congress passed legislation allowing USDA inspection of horse meat and horse slaughtering plants and President Obama signed it into law on November 18.

“For five years, we haven't had horse slaughter houses here in the U.S., we've had to ship the horses to Canada or Mexico,” said Sharps Corner rancher Todd O'Bryan, “this has brought horse prices way down for all kinds of horses; today when a rancher has a horse that has outlived its resourcefulness, they just end up in a pasture, its costs more to take it to town to sell than what you get out of it and if you ever watch a horse die, when it goes down and can't get up, it ends up just slamming its head against the ground until it can't move at all, thats a very inhumane way to go.”

There is a thriving world market for horsemeat; ranchers want to be able to have that option, especially when a work horse is no longer useful.

It would take a minimum of 60-90 days to open a plant in the U.S. There are two different groups in Wyoming that have expressed interest but it would take at least a year to start from scratch to get one opened in Wyoming.

“The tribe owns that packing plant in Gordon, is there any interest in re-opening the plant to slaughter horses and in the process provide anywhere from 25 to 100 jobs for tribal members,” said Scott Weston, tribal council representative from Porcupine, “we'd have to see if there was a market for a facility like that, we'd need employees and enough financing; maybe we could partner with another business.”

“We've been having to send our horses to Canada and even though someone is making money, its not ranchers or truckers,” said Jim Meeks, a council representative and rancher from Eagle Nest District, “its not humane to be hauling these horses all the way to Canada or Mexico and today if someone has horses and they can't care for them, they most oftentimes will let them loose on the range, on the road or in a park.”

“Colts today sell for as little as $50,. hardly worth the cost of bringing them into the world,” said O'Bryan.

“What horses you used to get $300 to $400 for, today get $50, its just not right,” said Meeks, “they should have never changed the legislatiomn to begin with.”

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