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Processing horse meat for consumption decision could impact Missouri plant

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GALLATIN, MO (KCTV) -

A controversial movement has made its way to the Show Me State.

Just this weekend a company in New Mexico got the go-ahead to process horse meat for consumption, and that decision may impact a couple trying to open a processing plant in Gallatin, MO.

The owners of Rains Natural Meats said they are horse lovers and owners and opening a horse slaughtering business will save animals from dying a cruel death, despite what opponents argue.

"You're going to see all those beautiful animals out there and they're getting their heads chopped off. I don't go for that too well," said Gallatin, MO, resident Kay Nelson.

Opening a horse slaughtering plant in Gallatin is meeting mixed reviews.

"As far as I'm concerned I see no difference between killing a horse than butchering a pig, cow, chicken. They're animals for meat. That's what they're put here for," resident Kit Cunningham said.

But the business opportunity for Rains Natural Meat is a legal one in the United States.

"The horse market crashed. The market for horses, because there was no bottom to the market any longer, the only outlet for horses that were not wanted or needed for another purpose was to Canada or Mexico," International Equine Business Association U.S. Chairwoman Sue Wallis said.

Slaughtering horses for consumption overseas was made illegal between 2007 and 2011. Proponents said it bottomed out the horse market and led to inhumane treatment.

"The end result was we saw a huge spike in the number of horses that were abandoned, turned out to die of starvation on a desert, left in other people's pastures," Wallis said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it is expected to approve an equine slaughter application the Gallatin company submitted because it is still legal despite efforts by Congress to defund the industry.

"What has happened yet again is Congress has failed to complete those bills, they've sometimes just continued the prior budget and so, through our lack of adequate process, we haven't been able to get this prohibition all the way through," said Nancy Perry, the senior vice president for ASPCA government relations.

Rains Natural Meat could become one of the first U.S. horse slaughtering plants to open in years.

"Anyone who purports to be interested in natural, drug-free products, really needs to take a second, third and fourth look at whether or not they want to get into horse slaughter. It's clearly a toxic idea," Perry said.

There is a bill that is expected to go to the floor that could defund horse slaughtering inspectors, which would essentially unravel the industry. The USDA said it has recommended to lawmakers the practice be made illegal once again.

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