(GALLATIN, Mo.) The debate about starting up a horse slaughter operation in northwest Missouri now centers on a small pond.
"They say we're going to run ground river red with that," said David Rains, co-owner of Rains Natural Meats.
Opponents of Rains' horse slaughter operation have gone to the courts to stop him, saying there would be environmental problems around the Gallatin plant if he started up.
"Horses receive Phenylbutazone," said Amanda Good, with the Humane Society of the United States, an outspoken critic of horse slaughter. "It is a very common drug given to horses that is a pain reliever."
Good says runoff from Rains' horse slaughter operation would leak from the nearby pond and poison the area, including the underground water table.
"These drugs are known as cancer-causing agents," Good said. "There's no record of what animal in the United States has been given these drugs, especially horses, because we don't raise them for food."
But Rains says only wash water would go into the drainage pond next to his plant. He says there would be no way any of that waste water would leech into the soil.
"Our clay liner was tested for permability which means it does not leak," Rains said. "If it wasn't engineered correctly or wasn't done by qualified people that's one story, but everything is. Everything was done by the book from the get go."
Those in the equine industry who support horse slaughter operations say this is just the latest tactic by the Humane Society to shut down their industry.
"They lie about humane handling. They are lying about food safety. They lie about the environment," said Sue Wallis, U.S. chair of the International Equine Business Association.
Rains is firm in his belief the design of his pond is sound.
"For all practical purposes, if you chlorinate this thing, it could be a swimming pool because it holds water that good," Rains said.
He says any horse carcass remains will be put in sealed 55-gallon drums and taken away so as not to go in the pond.
The U.S. District Court in St. Louis handling the case has until September 5 to make a decision.
SEE PARTS ONE AND TWO: National Debate on Horse Meat Hits Northwest Missouri