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Horse Slaughter Back In Oregon?

Darla Clark and some of her rescued horses. Photo by James Johnston.
Darla Clark and some of her rescued horses. Photo by James Johnston.

They eat horses don’t they? Well, not so much in the U.S., but Hermiston, Ore., could become the location of a new horse slaughter plant that would export meat to countries such as France and Japan that see nothing wrong with eating Mr. Ed.

Local horse rescuer Darla Clark of Strawberry Mountain Mustangs outside of Roseburg says while the humane aspect of horse slaughter has gotten the most attention, environmental and economic aspects need to be considered too.

No horse slaughterhouses have operated in the U.S. since 2007. Oregon has not had an equine abattoir since 1997, when the Cavel West slaughter plant in Redmond was burned by eco-saboteurs. It was never rebuilt.

But when the 2012 Federal Agricultural Appropriations Bill was signed into law last November, it lifted a congressional ban on funding domestic horse meat inspections, opening the way for horse slaughter to resume in the U.S. at taxpayer expense. An Oregon horse trainer, Dave Duquette, is organizing the pro-slaughter effort in Oregon.

According to an article in the Confederated Umatilla Journal, Duquette wants Northwest tribes to develop a cooperative and own 51 percent of the operation. The article quotes Scott Fairley, a regional coordinator for Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office, as telling Duquette, “It will be challenging but we’d all love to work with you to make this a success.”

Duquette’s proposal says the plant would butcher up to 200 horses a day, would create jobs and have a horse rescue component. 

“American investors would be wiser to invest in an eight-track tape manufacturing plant,” Clark says. She says slaughter jobs are rarely “good” jobs, and the plants cost cities more than they benefit.

“Non-horse owners need to know it’s going to affect them, too,” Clark says. “If USDA funding is appropriated for the inspectors, that’s your tax dollars. I look at it as another big corporate bailout.” 

She says the horse industry should breed fewer and better animals and not look to taxpayers to pay for slaughtering the industry’s excess horses.

Clark points to a Forbes article that says, according to tax records, the now-defunct Belgian-owned Dallas Crown horse slaughterhouse in Texas paid only $5 in federal taxes on a gross income of over $12 million. The plant incurred hundreds of environmental violations — at one point the blood from the horses overwhelmed the wastewater system and backed up into local residents’ bathtubs — and cost the city thousands in legal fees.

Duquette’s plan calls for treating the wastewater from the slaughterhouse using sludge ponds. The proposed Hermiston slaughterhouse is not far from the Umatilla River, Clark says, and that waterway flows into the Columbia. “Oregonians especially, we are so proud of our state, the wildlife, our river, our fish, I can’t believe they’d want that,” Clark says. 

For more information, find Oregonians Against Horse Slaughter on Facebook.  — Camilla Mortensen