Monday, July 23, 2012

No Progress in Rockville, MO.

No progress on horse slaughter plant in Rockville, Mo.

Posted on Sun, Jul. 22, 2012 10:41 PM  

Read more here: Wallis can’t stand the thought of hundreds of pounds of good horse meat rotting in the sun. She loves horses. Somebody ought to be eating that meat so their lives are not wasted, she said last weeSue Wallis can’t stand the thought of hundreds of pounds of good horse meat rotting in the sun.
Sue Wallis can’t stand the thought of hundreds of pounds of good horse meat rotting in the sun.
She loves horses. Somebody ought to be eating that meat so their lives are not wasted, she said last week.
Wallis, 53, grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, writes poetry about riding across the prairie and now is the country’s leading voice for a return to slaughtering horses for meat production.
Closing the plants, which Congress did in 2006, led to horses being abandoned and left to die in a ditch, she and other slaughter supporters say. It also knocked the bottom out of the horse market, they add.
A Wyoming state legislator, Wallis tried unsuccessfully to get processing plants going in her home state. Now she’s decided that the southern Midwest, specifically Missouri, would be the ideal place to return horse slaughter to America.
Wallis has announced plans to open slaughter plants in several cities, including Rockville, Mo., about a hundred miles south of Kansas City. A news release she put out in June said a former beef processing plant there was in the process of being retrofitted for horses.
That was not true. No work had been done and still hasn’t. Wallis’ company, Unified Equine, had not even acquired the building and again, still hasn’t.
Wallis’ critics, of whom there are many, say Rockville is typical of the woman they call “Slaughterhouse Sue.” They say she spreads misinformation; that she’s a regular Harold Hill when it comes to telling folks how horse slaughter is good for horses, good for horse owners and good for towns that allow it.
Wallis has since announced plans to open a slaughter plant in Oklahoma.
“She goes around to all these places with the promise of jobs and people get all excited and nothing ever comes of it,” said Pat Fazio, who works to protect wild horses in Wyoming and has clashed with Wallis over the years.
Which is fine with slaughter opponents. They say Wallis and her allies have done their best to make the most out of a 2011 Government Accountability Office report that concluded that closing the slaughter plants not only hurt horses but also damaged the horse industry by taking the bedrock out of the market: Slaughter at least provided a salvage rate.
Shortly after the GAO report came out, Congress restored funding for plant inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was one of three members of Congress to push for the reversal.
But anti-slaughter activists say the report overlooked that increased abandonments and falling horse prices coincided with the Great Recession. Owners and would-be owners lost jobs, farms and homes. Prices for hay and feed tripled. Fuel costs rose.
“What’s happened to the horse market had everything to do with a down economy and nothing to do with closing the slaughterhouses,” said Shelly Dunn, a Kansas City horse owner and slaughter opponent.
John Holland, president of the Virginia-based Equine Welfare Alliance, adds that recreational horse owners typically didn’t use slaughter anyway because the animals were too old. Slaughter horses tend to be about 5 years old.
“They (Wallis and other slaughter advocates) like to pretend this is about Ma and Pa Kettle and an old mare, but this really is about the performance horse industry looking to make money off horses they don’t need anymore,” Holland said.
Wallis doesn’t hide her disdain for animal-welfare activists.
“No, I don’t like them,” she said. “They put animals on the same plane as mentally challenged children. It’s completely unnatural. And they’re out to destroy animal agriculture.”
Wallis acknowledged she has yet to acquire the Rockville plant but said her plan for the town is still a go. She thinks she will be doing Missouri a favor if she can pull that off. She points out, too, that organizations such as the Missouri Equine Council support her effort.
Mindy Patterson, a board member of the group, visited Rockville and has spoken passionately about the need for slaughter’s return — to lessen horses’ misery and to revive the state’s horse business, she says.
But Rockville poses problems. The plant there is mired in a heap of ownership and legal troubles. Last September, owner Vincent Paletta was sued for breach of contract by a company owned by his wife. Since then, the couple have been sued by a Grandview electrician who sought a lien on the property for nonpayment of $60,000 of refrigeration work.
Also, Vincent Paletta was charged in February with two counts of stealing in connection to operation of the plant.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has said the other issues are being resolved.
But on top of those issues, Congress could again take away funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughter operations. Last month, an amendment to an appropriations bill proposed by Rep. Jim Moran cleared the House Appropriations Committee.
“When more than 80 percent of the American population oppose this practice, it is high time we put an end, once and for all, to industrial horse slaughter,” said Moran, a Virginia Democrat. “Horses hold an important place in our nation’s history and culture, treasured by all for their beauty and majesty. They deserve to be cared for, not killed for foreign consumption.”
Other legislation also could put the kibosh on horse slaughter.
“So why would anybody invest thousands of dollars in Rockville, Missouri, if the government could shut the whole thing down?” Dunn said.
Wallis, who says she’s five generations deep in ranching and rodeo, remembers the day she decided horse slaughter would be a good thing.
Her father had a team of Belgian draft mares. One got injured and died. So he loaded the other mare and took it to auction.
“He got $4 for an 1,800-pound horse,” Wallis said. “Cost more than that to haul it over there.
“I knew then that the bottom in the market didn’t exist anymore.”
That sent her on a mission to get horse slaughter back up and running. Doing so, in her thinking, would set a minimum price for a horse.
On an Internet blog, she attacked those opposed to slaughter with her version of a nightmarish scenario — writing of animal-rights groups conspiring with environmentalists and big government to end animal agriculture.
“Disrupt the food chain, and all hell breaks loose,” she wrote. “The wise man was right; the difference between civilization and savagery is about three days. When available food in cities can be measured in days and not weeks, what happens when food doesn’t arrive?
“We see it around the world already. Riots erupt. People panic, and people die. Some die of territorial violence. More die of slow starvation. Either way it is brutal.
“This is my nightmare.”
Google “Sue Wallis and horse slaughter” today, and more than 40,000 hits come up. Many of them unkind.
Still, though she may be the face of slaughter, this fight is far more than about her.
Proponents contend horse suffering and low auction prices justify a return to slaughter. They also argue that horses are livestock just like cows and pigs. People eat horse meat — just not here. European and Asian appetites could return the American horse market to boom times.
Some veterinary groups endorse slaughter. The rodeo industry is generally in support.
Mindy Patterson of the Missouri Equine Council told The Star earlier this year that without slaughter, “Many old and sick horses are dying terrible deaths because the owners don’t have anyplace to take them. Some people can’t afford to hire a vet to come out and put a horse down.
“This is going on all over the country.”
But opponents argue that slaughter is a lot more about business than compassion. They say stories of abandonments are exaggerated, and that anyone who lets a horse suffer isn’t a good owner anyway. If someone has an old horse that needs to be put down, they say, call a vet and the man with a backhoe. There are also cremation, composting and rendering. Those are options for responsible horse owners, opponents say.
As for horses being like cows and pigs, no, they are not, slaughter opponents add. The cavalry didn’t ride to the rescue on Black Angus. A horse’s place in history and American culture should exclude it from the food chain.
Opponents say, too, that, unlike cattle that line up for slaughter like army recruits getting their shots, horses fight. Sometimes they are only stunned by the captive bolt when butchering begins.
“I just don’t see how anyone could work as hard as she does for something so terrible,” lifelong horse owner and slaughter opponent Peggy Henry Bradford, 65, of Raymondville, Mo., said of Wallis.
Wallis’ efforts in the Wyoming House of Representatives to push slaughter legislation while working with private organizations to promote commercial horse slaughter drew an ethics complaint filed by Fazio.
“Not only has Rep. Wallis neglected to recuse herself on votes on bills in which she has had a personal financial interest, but she has actually sponsored them,” Fazio wrote in the complaint.
The House leadership concluded, however, that Wallis had broken no rule because at the time she owned no interest in a slaughter plant.
“We find that the allegation in your complaint that Rep. Wallis may someday open a horse slaughter plant and might benefit from the legislation is at most a speculative and remote personal interest,” the ruling stated.
But unable to get a project off the ground in Wyoming, she looked to Missouri.
“Draw a 500-mile circle around Springfield and you take in 30 percent of horses in the entire country,” Wallis told The Star.
Perhaps Mountain Grove, her first Missouri option, wasn’t the best choice. After telling critics, “Discussion’s over. Make all the noise you want. We’re going into business,” a public meeting there in March nearly turned into a riot with townspeople jumping all over Wallis’ backers.
“They practically ran her out of town on a rail,” Fazio said.
Wallis quickly put out a statement that Mountain Grove wasn’t a good fit, after all.
Rockville, she decided, would be better. Unlike in Mountain Grove, residents there cheered Wallis’ announcement in June. Mayor Dave Moore said the town was behind it. They needed jobs, he said.
But Wallis will once again have to contend with Cynthia McPherson, an attorney who led the fight against Wallis in Mountain Grove. McPherson now represents the electrician who has sued Vincent Paletta over work done at the Rockville plant.
When contacted recently, Moore, the mayor, said the town remained “all for it.” But he acknowledged, too, that nothing had been done beyond the day Wallis showed up and told them all how great things were going to be.
For now, the plant at Rockville’s edge remains quiet. Pens are empty. Grass grows in the parking lot.
As Hemingway might have written, no horses would die today.

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