UPDATE: Since originally published this morning, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) public affairs staff have provided Food Safety News with copies of the applications for equine inspection services. The FSIS officials did so in part to illustrate that most of the applications are not complete in the sense that items are missing or not filled out correctly, meaning, an official says, they “are not even close to having a walk through with FSIS.” From those applications, some additional information has been added to this story. One thing is certain. The future of horse slaughter in the U.S. is being fought out mostly in small towns. From Larkspur, Colorado (population 234), the anti-slaughter Front Range Equine Rescue group Thursday disclosed the names of four more horse slaughter applicants. The four are in addition to New Mexico’s Valley Meat, which is located outside Roswell (pop. 48,386). The five in total have applied for federal meat inspection services under the “equine” option on USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service forms. Valley Meat’s application, filed Dec. 13, 2011, has been known for months both because Front Range Equine Rescue has been opposing it, and because the business has gone into federal court in hopes it can get a federal judge to order FSIS to provide inspection services. The others are managed to stay beneath the radar, until now. They are:
- Rains Natural Meats, Gallatin, Missouri (pop. 1,791). Located in rural Northwest Missouri, Rains is a division of Pro Show Enterprises Inc., also based in Gallatin. In its Jan. 15, 2013 cover letter, manager David Rains writes: “We area already starting the changes in our HACCP Plan to address drug residue in horses.”
- Trail South Meat Processing in Woodbury, Tennessee (pop. 2681). Trail South is listed in one foreign trade directory as a supplier of boxed frozen horsemeat to Asia and Europe. Founded in 2012, Stanley Dobson is listed as chief executive officer. It is owned by Trail South LLC based in Auburntown, TN. Its application is dated June 1, 2012.
- Oklahoma Meat Co. in Washington, Oklahoma (pop 520). Ahsan Amil is listed as the owner/manager on the May 18, 2012 application. Washington is just 30 minutes south of Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma.
- Responsible Transportation, Sigourney, Iowa (pop. 2059). Work is reportedly underway in Southeast Iowa to turn the old Louis Rich Plant north of town into a horse slaughter facility. Responsible Transportation LLC wants to be up and running by late spring or early summer 2013. It has the editorial support of the local newspaper, the Sigourney News-Review. Keaton Walker is president and chief executive officer for Responsible Transportation LLC.
USDA’s Des Moines district office wrote Responsible Transportation on Dec. 26, 2012 to advise the firm that it “cannot begin operations until a Conditional Grant of Inspection is issued, and provided a worksheet that needed to be completed “before or during” a walk-through. Valley Meat is owned by Sarah and Ricardo de los Santos, and was previously a beef plant that ran into financial problems and was forced to cutback operations. Some of Oklahoma’s top lawmakers have been moving legislation to lift the state ban on horse slaughter as long as the meat is processed for export only. At the same time, new efforts are underway in Congress to re-impose the ban on horse slaughter that was lifted more than a year ago after being in place for about five years. Originally, USDA declined to provide copies of the applications outside of the formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process, but since the request filed by the Colorado horse rescue group was approved, FSIS opted to provide them to Food Safety News. With no domestic “sale barn” option for disposing of horses since the last legal horse slaughter plant closed down in 2007, some experts say the “unintended consequences” have been more cruelty to the animals now than before. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of Congress documented those concerns in a report two years ago, and the Obama Administration and Congress opted to lift the ban a year later.