Oregon Horse Processing Plant Planned

Oregon could be the site of the latest proposed horse processing plant since Congress lifted its ban on USDA funding for horsemeat inspections, according to the project’s organizer Dave Duquette. In February a Wyoming-based group announced its intention to develop a horse slaughter plant in Missouri. Feasibility and site selection studies for that plant are currently under way, despite the fact the initial proposed plant site was abandoned earlier this week.

Duquette said the Oregon plant would be located on a 250-acre parcel in Hermiston. When operational, the plant would process more than 100 animals per day and employ between 50 and 100 workers, he said. The $3 million project would be developed by private investors with possible participation by Native American tribes in the region.

Katherine Minthorn Good Luck, the Intertribal Agriculture Council's representative for the Northwest Tribes, was not available to comment on tribal participation the project.

In addition to the processing plant, the project includes the development of an algae farm to treat plant-related waste water and an onsite equine “Rescue and Rejuvenation Program.” The program would have its own staff and would accept horses seized by authorities in animal cruelty cases, abandoned by their owners, or given to the program by overburdened rescues. Horses in the program would be evaluated by a college-affiliated equine professional for soundness and trainability. Those suitable for rehoming would be retrained and placed in new permanent homes or provided at low or no cost to equine assisted therapy programs, youth groups, or other equine-focused nonprofit groups, Duquette said. Horses deemed too old, too ill, too dangerous, or otherwise unsuitable for rehoming would be processed, he said.

“The Rescue and Rejuvenate Program is intended to prevent overburdened rescues from having to care for and feed horses that cannot be retrained or used for any purpose,” Duquette said. “This program allows them to use their funds to help horses that are viable and can be helped and placed in new homes.”

Duquette said that overall, local support for the Hermiston project is strong. However, some rescue operators differ in their opinions of the project’s Rescue and Rejuvenation component.

Jo Deibel, founder and executive director of Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in Glenville, Pa., believes horse processing and equine welfare are conflicting concepts: "I personally believe that the 'rescue and rejuvenation' touted … is a complete farce (because) horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia. Any program that touts horse slaughter as a pleasant or wonderful experience for the horse is not acting in the best interest of the horses or their owners."

Nicole Walukewicz, board chairman of the Palmetto Equine Awareness & Rescue League (PEARL), in Anderson, S.C., said some rescues--including PEARL--already euthanize horses deemed too ill, too dangerous, or otherwise unsuitable for rehoming in order to apply financial resources to horses suitable for placement into adoptive homes.

“Mr. Duquette is simply processing the animals rescued like ours euthanize,” Walukewicz said. “A slaughter facility that considers the treatment of the horse, cares to segregate horses into relatively calm herds, has a well-thought-out, low-stress processing plant would not be unacceptable.”

Duquette said construction of the Hermiston plant has not yet begun, but he expects the plant to be operational within a year.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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