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Iowa town becomes site of second U.S. horse slaughterhouse

By   /   July 2, 2013  /   22 Comments

By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog

DES MOINES – A small town in southeast Iowa gained initial approval Tuesday to become home the nation’s second horse slaughterhouse that will produce meat for human consumption, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday.

Iowa becomes home to the nation's second horse slaughterhouse.

Iowa becomes home to the nation’s second horse slaughterhouse.

Responsible Transportation of Sigourney met the USDA’s initial requirements and will have to pass an onsite inspection before beginning operations. The company has been renovating its facility for the past six months and officials hope to employ 25 workers during the first year of operation, said Keaton Walker, president Responsible Transportation.

The facility will ship the meat to zoos and oversees for consumption, Keaton said.

“We believe our company will provide a sustainable solution to the unwanted horse problem,” Keaton said in an email. “We recognize horse meat is not something commonly consumed by Americans, but we hope that people can respect the different choices that other cultures make regarding their diets.”

The Sigourney plant is the second facility in less than a week to gain approval from the federal agency. USDA officials were forced to take action because Congress let a law banning funding for such inspections lapse in fiscal year 2012, they said in a statement.

Another facility in Roswell, N.M., got the green light to proceed with its operation. A third application in Kansas is awaiting approval.

“Since Congress has not yet acted on to ban horse slaughter inspection, (this agency) is legally required to issue a grant of inspection today to Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, IA for equine slaughter,” the USDA said in a written statement.

“The administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter. Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law,” it said.

Congress approved a ban on funding for the inspections of such facilities in 2006. Without inspection, such facilities were unable to operate. The measure was effective through fiscal year 2011.

Without action, USDA officials must comply with federal rules requiring them to grant federal inspections if a facility meets all requirements for horse slaughtering and processing, according to the statement.

Iowa U.S. senators Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Officials with Responsible Transportation also did not return requests for comment.

The company’s mission is to “improve the quality of life of the unwanted horse population through the development and application of innovative livestock handling practices, utilization of professionally supervised and government regulated euthanasia processes, and removal of the agonizing voyages to processing facilities outside of the United States,” according to its website.

Additionally, the website said, “An unwanted horse may be a horse the owner can no longer afford to feed, a horse that is too dangerous to handle, or a horse with injuries, lameness, or illness.”

Contact Sheena Dooley at [email protected].


Sheena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.



  • JohnDopp

    There is no humane slaughter of horses. The anatomy and psychology of the horse ensure that industrial slaughter processes designed for other animals are brutal and inefficient for equines.

    And more than 92% of the horses killed are healthy and in good condition according to USDA audits. This is not humane euthanasia. This is nothing more than an excuse for animal abusers to profit from the greed and irresponsibility of breeders and horse thieves, at the expense of the animals, the consumers, and the environment.

  • Judy

    Disgusting and so, so sad!

  • ron

    I see no real issue with this. If you eat meat than who are you to say that a horse shouldn’t be slaughtered. It’s no different than a pig, cow, chicken, or turkey, just a double standard nothing more nothing less. Horses could also be very humanly euthanized with carbon monoxide like at all of the swine packing houses.

  • Elizabeth K Marsh

    Anyone who is worrying that horses won’t be/aren’t being humanely slaughtered needs to stop eating Big Macs. The slaughter of dairy and beef cattle in this country is absolustely grusome! Some are actually still concious when they are being skinned.

    As far as whether people should eat horses? If the gripers had been born in Europe they would be eating horse meat. If they had been born in China they would be eating dog meat. If they had been born in India they would think Americans are disgusting for eating Big Macs.

  • Anti Bloody Mary

    Simple if an animal is domesticated you shouldn’t eat it. The idiots claiming to purchase little Sallys pony will be taking it one a one way trip to hell. If you have a horse you can’t afford there are options if you look hard enough. can’t afford a horse but we have a big cell phone bill and designer purse.

  • Nick

    Let it be known that Mr. Walker is euthanizing the horses that are being transported out to Mexico and Canada, which are dying on the rides there. Let us not forget that the Mexican slaughterhouses are most likely inhumane. Also, how are 92% of the horses killed healthy, when none have been allowed to operate in America since 2007..

  • Anniesezso

    “Let it be known that Mr. Walker is euthanizing …” please specify how, exactly, that he is “euthanizing” them?

    “… Mexican slaughterhouses are most likely inhumane.” ALL horse slaughter plants are inhumane. Google the renowned slaughter expert Temple Grandin for her horse slaughter plant experiment then look online for the USDA self report on their horse slaughter findings. Absolutely appalling. Obviously you have not read this report.

    “… how are 92% of the horses killed healthy, when none …” Horse slaughter has been just as available, remained just as active as it was before the ban, but the horses were shipped over the borders and the numbers have not changed–they just were not slaughtered on U.S. soil. Kill buyers frequent every horse sale across the U.S. and over 90 percent of sale horses are purchased by kill buyers.

    For minimal blood money and a convenient garbage can, American horses are betrayed by the human hand that once fed them and they come to a terrified and barbaric end.

    And btw to the person who points to meat eaters opposing horse slaughter. Wake up–that’s pro-slaughter propaganda. Horses are raised as sport animals not food animals. Their history of care, feed, and drugs is totally unregulated and unrecorded. At a bare minimum they are routinely dosed with wormer, fly spray, and horse aspirin that is toxic and is banned for use in human consumption by the FDA. Most show and race horses live their lives on daily toxic drug cocktails and this is what we are shipping to unsuspecting international consumers. Unimaginable that Grassley, King, Harkin, Branstad, et.al., pocket Big Ag money and then look the other way.

    Wake up to the sleeze and greed of horse slaughter. While a few plant owners profit and a horse brings an owner a few dollars instead of spending a few to properly euthanize, taxpayers are left to foot the bill for the USDA inspectors and a mountain of environmental damage to municipalities that in the past plant owners skipped out on and earned citizens absolutely nothing. Google Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, Texas.

    Wake up Iowans and stop letting Big Ag propaganda influence your thinking.

  • dk

    I am against horse slaughter for many reasons. It’s a highly expensive proposition for taxpayers.

    Each plant will cost taxpayers $400,000.00, according to this press release. This issue crosses all party lines. Voters and politicians from all sides of the isle are against horse slaughter for a laundry list of reasons.

    Here is the press release:


    “According to the USDA, each horse slaughter facility…would cost U.S. taxpayers over $400,000 per year in operation costs.”

    This is the worst economy since the Great Depression. In addition to the cost of the USDA inspecting plants, at a price tag of $400,000.00 per plant to U.S. taxpayers, the meat will not even be eaten in the U.S. Why should we, as American taxpayers, pay for these inspections?

    Additionally, we have to factor in the taxpayer expense of police officers who will likely be taking more reports on horse theft and making more investigations into horse theft.

    As a horse owner, the thought of horse theft and stolen horses ending up at slaughter concerns me greatly. I would hope that it would concern you, too. Many people think of their horses as family members.

  • dk

    I am against the USDA opening up inspections for the proposed horse slaughter plant in Gallatin, Missouri, or in any other city or county in Missouri or in the United States. Horses in the U.S. are not raised for human consumption.

    They are our friends and companions, and as such horses are treated with drugs like cats and dogs to a wide variety of vaccinations, bacterins, topical and oral treatments that are not approved for human consumption. We use gloves with topical treatments such as Surpass, because we don’t want equine drugs touching our skin, let alone consuming them.

    It’s not economical to raise horses for slaughter in the U.S., because it takes a whole lot more money to feed a horse than it does a bovine (or cow), for example. The USDA has no business inspecting a horse slaughter plant that by default will be receiving horses that are not fit for human consumption. The horses they will be receiving have not been raised drug-free for human consumption. That’s a fact.

    As a grower of corn, wheat and soybeans, the USDA’s reputation directly affects many. The European Union, which is where most of the horse meat would go, has a zero tolerance for Bute (Phenylbutazone) , which is routinely given to horses in the U.S. It is estimated that 90% of horses in the U.S. have been treated with this drug, not to mention all of the other drugs.

    There is no way to test for all of these drugs on every horse destined for slaughter. If you don’t believe me, then keep reading. We had a horse at one of the Universities that was sick and on the premises of the University, and it took two days for us to get the test results of one test. Many tests would need to be run on each horse, and there is no way to do this in a timely fashion.

    Most of the horses destined for slaughter are young or middle-aged, and in the prime of their lives. Two that have been rescued from slaughter have gone on and are now showing at the Morgan Grand National level.

    Horse slaughter has no place in America.

  • dk

    Please sign the petition to ban horse slaughter in the U.S.:

    Here is another petition, this one to Stop Horse Slaughter Factory in Missouri:

  • dk

    Why should American taxpayers fund the inspection of horse slaughter plants for foreigners? To the tune of $400,000.00 per plant? And what about the cost of horse thieves. More police spending more time writing reports and conducting investigations of stolen horses? This is the worst economy since the Great Depression. You should be concerned about horse theft.

  • dk

    A horse is quite different than a pig, cow, chicken or turkey, in that they are not raised for human consumption and are given a wide variety of drugs that say, “not for human consumption” on their label. 90% of horses are given Bute, which makes them ineligible for slaughter.

  • susanmeanslily

    In the late 1990’s The USDA hired Dr. Temple Grandin to research horses going to slaughter. The 92% that gets bandied around was the percentage of horses that were in acceptable shape to be slaughtered. The other 8% were horses blind in both eyes, broken legs, severely emaciated and couldn’t walk unassisted. Those horses were given immediate euthanasia. Regulations were changed due to this report. Most injuries were caused by sellers or during transport by horses fighting among themselves. Double decker trailers were outlawed as they caused injuries when tall horses had to travel in them.

  • Curt

    Smithfield the largest pork killer does not use co2. Very few plants do it’s too expensive. They like to stun em with electricity hopefully causing heart attacks. You want to try and design an elevator system that will gently lower a 800lb screaming crazed horse that smells the blood and hears the screams of other horses into the co2. Horse slaughter is extremely brutal. Studies done have shown 4,5 up to 10 holes in horse skulls at the refuse piles left at other plants. The horse will not stand still for someone to approach their head with a captive bolt device or rifle. Susanmeanlady above mentioned Temple Grandin the so called expert on animal slaughter witnessed one large draft horse being hit 11 times and still not going down and said those were just insurance hits! It is a brutal and horrific process. Susanmeanlady above said that the 8% that are not young and healthy (so much for old and sick) are immediately euthanized..BS they are run through just like the others. There is no soft lighting and music with vet standing there to gently ease them into the afterlife. They are prodded and push or dragged into the kill chute just like the rest of them. There is no market for the meat. Pet food companies won’t use it, Zoos don’t want it. It is toxic to humans as well as animals.96% of american horses have been given bute which causes cancer and it has no withdrawal period.

  • Curt

    Below are points of truth from the Animal Law Coalition and
    Equine Welfare Alliance.

    1. Horses are our companions and pets; they helped build this
    country and still work in the military and law enforcement and, provide
    entertainment in horse racing, shows and other sports and exhibitions. Horses
    are not raised for food in the U.S.

    2. The slaughter of horses simply cannot be made humane: Dr.
    Lester Friedlander, DVM & former Chief USDA Inspector, told Congress in
    2008 that the captive bolt used to slaughter horses is simply not effective.
    Horses, in particular, are very sensitive about anything coming towards their
    heads and cannot be restrained as required for effective stunning. Dr.
    Friedlander stated, “These animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after
    being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected.” The
    Government Accountability Office and dozens of veterinarians and other
    witnesses have confirmed that ineffective stunning is common and animals are
    conscious during slaughter.

    . 3.. The FDA does not regulate American horsemeat as food
    because there is no market for it in the U.S. and most importantly, horsemeat
    is dangerous, if not deadly, for humans to consume. Horses are given all manner
    of drugs, steroids, de-wormers and ointments throughout their lives. Horses are
    not tracked and typically may have several owners. A kill buyer has no idea of the
    veterinary or drug history of a horse taken to slaughter, and many of the most
    dangerous drugs have no or a very long withdrawal period. A typical drug given
    routinely to horses like aspirin, Bute, is a carcinogen and can cause aplastic
    anemia in humans. Bute is banned in all food producing animals and there is no
    withdrawal period.

    4. The availability of slaughter actually increases the numbers
    of excess horses on the market. Slaughter creates a salvage or secondary market
    that encourages overbreeding. Banning slaughter would reduce the number of
    excess horses. Slaughter is not “an alternative” for so called
    unwanted horses or horses in need. Slaughter is a for profit industry driven by
    a demand for horsemeat, and has nothing to do with the numbers of excess or
    unwanted horses. Slaughter actually encourages overbreeding and adds to the
    problem of horses in need. The USDA has confirmed more than 92% of horses that
    end up at slaughter are healthy; they are not unwanted, neglected or abused.
    Horses are in need right now because of the economy and, in fact, slaughter is
    still available which is further proof that lack of slaughter does not result
    in excess or unwanted horses. Just the opposite!

  • Curt

    The European Union is going to initiate their
    passport rules very soon. No horse meat can be accepted without a document that
    lists all drugs taken in the horses’ lifetime. And you cannot get one once the horse is 6
    months or older. Dog food makers used it in the mid and early 1900’s but it was
    making the dogs sick. There goes most of
    the horse meat market. Starting plants now is a stupid idea. NO investor in their right mind would put a penny into this type of
    operation. The language to de-fund horse slaughter inspection has already been
    entered into both the house and senate versions of the Ag bill and it is
    identical so it does not have to go through a reconciliation committee like it
    did in 2011 when Sen. Blunt with Jack Kingston and Herb Kohl sneakily had it
    removed. So when they get their differences
    resolved over food stamps the bill will be passed this year and horse meat
    inspections will be de-funded. Then the SAFE act will be passed that will
    forbid horse slaughter and the transport to slaughter. So anyone that wants to
    proceed with this business is really, really, really stupid.

  • JohnDopp

    The 92% were not merely “in acceptable shape to be slaughtered,” they were in good, healthy condition overall. Many of the broken legs, blinded eyes, and other injuries were either incurred during transport or were *intentionally inflicted on horses* to disable them during transport.

    Double decker trailers were outlawed only after a lengthy fight from the slaughter industry.

    So let’s not pretend that slaughter is humane, or that the people pushing it have the best interests of the animal at heart. This is a brutal, unconscionable industry driven by greed, nothing more.

    The USDA report is available from http://www.kaufmanzoning.net/foia.htm, and I strongly recommend that you don’t view those pictures while eating.

  • crookedstick

    Thank Your Rep. Steve King… He is the poster boy for all things concerning Animal Abuse… from dog fighting to Horse soring, puppy mills to cramped cages.

  • Jpr

    But you can slaughter humans through abortion?

  • Tony

    These guys have solved two problems, horse overpopulation….solved, jobs in sigourney……solved. Great idea guys. I stand with you 100%.

  • MMS

    Midwest is known for crops, animals and good people. When I read that we were even considering opening a plant to “destroy” Gods’ most beautiful creature (the horse), I was sick. There is nothing more dazzling then watching a horse gallop thru meadows or graze in the sun light of the day…. We help animals that have been beaten by owners or abandoned, the horse should be no different. We need a safe haven them to roam. MMS