CHEYENNE, Wyo. —A Wyoming company is looking to build one of the only horse slaughterhouses in the country in the Riverton area within the next year, according to state Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, the company’s chief executive.
The move could make Wyoming a hot spot in a nationwide controversy regarding whether horses should be slaughtered for meat.
Wallis said company officials are looking to bring in local investors to help finance the plant, which she said could cost between $2 million and $6 million and would initially create about 50 jobs. The facility would process up to 200 horses a day, she said, for sale abroad and to ethnic markets within the U.S.
Wallis said the plant would only purchase privately-owned horses; wild horses on public land are federally protected from being sold for slaughter.
Horse slaughter for human consumption had effectively been banned in the U.S. since 2006, as Congress withheld money for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors for horse meat. That funding was restored late last year.
Wallis has been a national advocate to allow horse slaughterhouses. Her company, Unified Equine, is already moving on controversial plans to build horse slaughter plants in Oklahoma and Missouri. Work on the Riverton facility won’t start until those facilities are up and running, Wallis said.
In the past, Wallis said her group had been considering building a slaughterhouse in Platte County.
Wallis and other supporters of horse slaughter say that the practice is humane and provides an alternative for old and unwanted horses that would otherwise be starved or abandoned.
“We love our horses. We absolutely do not want them to suffer. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Wallis said. “People who love lamb are never accused of hating sheep."
With horses, she said, it should be the "same deal."
But Pat Fazio, president of the Cody-based Wyoming Animal Welfare Network, said there’s been no concrete studies in Wyoming showing that a horse slaughter ban leads to mistreatment or abandonment.
Like other animals slaughtered for food, Fazio said, horses are usually first stunned with a captive bolt, a metal rod shot into the animal’s head.
But unlike other animals, Fazio said, horses move their heads more, requiring several shots before they lose consciousness.
“There’s really no humane way to slaughter a horse,” Fazio said.
Fazio said if Wallis comes through this time with her plans to build a slaughterhouse, she’ll launch a publicity war to stop it
“I’ll tell you one thing, if she tries to build a horse slaughter plant in Riverton,” she said, “I’m going to come after her with everything I have.”