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The Forum, Published January 28 2009

Forum Editorial: Horse-kill study isn’t necessary

North Dakota’s state coffers are overflowing, but spending even the relatively small sum of $100,000 to study the viability of a privately owned horse slaughterhouse would be wasteful. There is no significant demand for “an equine processing facility,” which is the euphemism for a place to kill horses and render them into everything from pet food to glue.

Rep. Rod Froelich, D-Selfridge, and Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, said they introduced the bill in response to constituents. “Lots of constituents were begging us to do this,” said Froelich. He was not specific about what he meant by “lots.” We suspect, however, there are a “lots and lots” of North Dakotans who think the idea is offensive and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Sponsors say the study could lead to the nation’s only horse rendering factory in the nation. The last two – in Texas and Illinois – closed in 2007. That should be a hint (like a plank across the forehead) that the business model is not sound. The fact a horse slaughtering plant can’t survive in Texas ought to be enough evidence that North Dakota should look elsewhere to invest economic study dollars.

The nearest horse slaughtering businesses are in Canada and Mexico. Miller said the two U.S. facilities closed because “activists” provided false information about the factories. That charge – if true – doesn’t explain why there are no U.S. horse rendering plants anywhere in the nation – even in horse country like Kentucky or California or New York.

If horse-slaughtering services were in demand, the private sector would respond. It should not take $100,000 of public money to assess what the private sector likely already knows. If investors saw an opportunity to make a buck turning horses into gelatin and leather, they would be knocking on the state’s door for tax breaks and other incentives to set up shop. It’s not happening.

The horse occupies a special place in the human experience. Horses are beloved animals, not only because of their history of farm labor, competition and western lore, but also as noble companions for recreational riding or pulling carriages through city parks or in wagon train re-enactments.

That being said, no one should adopt the rosy view that all old or sick horses are put out to pasture to live out their lives and then trot off to horse heaven. The reality is harsher. There are places – there must be places – where horses are killed and rendered into products we all use. But North Dakota does not need to spend $100,000 to learn the state would not support such a place. The private marketplace has told us so.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board