Horse Slaughterhouse Divides Business Community

4 years 1 month 1 day ago April 26, 2012 Apr 26, 2012 Thursday, April 26 2012 Thursday, April 26, 2012 5:09:00 PM CDT in Your View
By: Jessica Smith

MOUNTAIN GROVE - Sue Wallis, CEO of United Equine, told KOMU 8 she will set up a horse slaughterhouse in western Missouri. Wallis would not disclose where exactly the slaughterhouse will go, but she plans to have it up and running by the end of the summer.

The slaughterhouse will rival a New Mexico plant to become the first horse slaughterhouse in the United States since Congress made a decision to reinstate USDA funding for horse slaughterhouse inspections.

Slaughterhouse supporters think a horse meat processing plant is necessary to help improve the dismal horse market. Horse owners have few options when horses are too old or weak to work.

Euthenasia costs at least $75.00, and owners must still pay for burial costs. The low-value horses will only bring in $100-200 if the owner can find a domestic buyer, or ships the horse to Mexico or Canada for processing. Some owners just release the horses into the wild. A horse slaughterhouse would allow horse owners to turn a profit on horses that can no longer work or be trained.

"That same 1,100-1,200 pound horse would bring in a minimum of 600,700, 800, even 1000 dollars," said Wallis.

Wallis claims the plant will initially bring 40-50 jobs to the town, potentially building up to around 100 positions. Opponents of the plant worry no one will want to take those jobs.

"Who wants that job? I think what they'll do is try their hand at it and then get in there and leave," said TC Wagner, a horse rescue owner.

Wallis had considered setting up in Mountain Grove, Missouri, but faced strong opposition from much of the town. Wallis had promised the same 40-50 jobs to the town with a population of 4,800 and a 9.5 percent unemployment rate.

"They don't want to see horse slaughter, or think about it, or have loads of horses going up and down 60," said Wagner.

Russell Brown, a Mountain Grove horse trainer, said he thinks the slaughterhouse would benefit Mountain Grove and that people would take the jobs.

"Anytime you have employment that's going to help whatever economy. Yes, that's going to help it," said Brown.

Wallis ultimately decided Mountain Grove wasn't a good fit for the United Equine slaughterhouse, and moved onto western Missouri. Wallis describes the town as a rural environment with a high unemployment rate; the slaughterhouse will move an industrial park.

Many opponents are concerned about the impact a horse slaughterhouse would have on property values. To find out if there is any correlation between a slaughterhouse and property values, KOMU 8 looked at Dekalb, Illinois--where a horse slaughterhouse was open from 1987-2007.

First, KOMU 8 talked to a county assessor and compared sale prices of the surrounding buildings before and after the plant closed. There were no significant changes that can be directly correlated to the horse slaughterhouse. Several county appraisers said the plant had no impact on residential property values in Dekalb. Dekalb County's total value assessments increased steadily from 2005-2009, again, showing no change related to the slaugherhouse.

United Equine released a statement saying the slaughterhouse will have a positive effect on property values:

According to promotional material, "It is likely an increase in value because of lower community unemployment and more economic investment and opportunity for the the community at large."

Attorney Cynthia MacPherson is fighting a slaughterhouse in Missouri. MacPherson has written letters to Attorney General Chris Koster and Missouri lawmakers asking for help to stop the plant. MacPherson worries if Wallis has background and credentials for running a slaughterhouse, and doubts United Equine has the finances to sustain a slaughterhouse.

"In a plant, as proposed by Sue Wallis, would take a full time inspector. There's no money to pay them," said MacPherson.

Wallis said a combination of Missouri tax incentives, tax dollars and United Equine's accounts will get the company started. Wallis would not disclose any information about the company's finances or details about the Missouri tax breaks.

KOMU 8 has been unable to reach the Department of Economic Development to ask questions about the slaughterhouse tax incentives.

Watch the video for this story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMBGosKxlKE&feature=youtu.be

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