March 11, 2007

Within a day of the U.S. Court of Appeals' rejection of a petition from two foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses in Texas seeking to remain open, a Texas lawmaker has already introduced a bill to repeal the 1949 state law banning the sale and possession of horse meat for human consumption. Animal welfare groups called H.B. 2476, introduced this week by Rep. Sid Miller (R-59th), a last gasp by a dying industry.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN) and the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL), active campaigners for a ban on horse slaughter, condemn the legislation and urge Texas legislators to reject it.

"The foreign-owned slaughter industry and its paid lobbyists will stop at nothing to keep the doors open on this shockingly inhumane and grisly business," said Lou Guyton, director of The HSUS' southwest regional office director in Fort Worth. "Not only should this state bill flatly be rejected, it's time the United States Congress pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and end the butchering once and for all."

"This legislation ignores the fact that most Texans, as most Americans, are strongly opposed to the slaughter of our horses and the cruelty and abuse they suffer during the process," said Randy Turner, president of THLN. "Instead, H.B. 2476 supports two foreign-owned corporations whose fringe industry is widely reviled. A vote for H.B. 2476 is a vote against an American icon. We urge humane-minded state legislators in Texas to kill this bill."

"The two plants in Texas have operated - and profited - from an illegal business for more than half a century," said Chris Heyde, deputy legislative director for SAPL. "It's time to uphold the will of Texans and their state law by stopping the brutal business of horse slaughter in Texas. We commend Governor Perry for his humane stance in favor of this position and encourage the legislature to follow his lead."

• According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100,800 American horses were slaughtered in three foreign-owned slaughter houses in 2006. Another 30,000 were sent to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

• USDA statistics show more than 92 percent of horses slaughtered in the U.S. are in good shape, not old and infirm as opponents claim.

• Legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses nationwide was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Reps. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 503.

The measure received bipartisan support in the 109th Congress, winning a vote of 263 to 146 in the House. In late 2006, it stalled in the Senate, where it had been approved overwhelmingly the year before, and was not brought up for a vote before Congress adjourned.

• Nearly 70 percent of Americans are strongly against the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas.

• The criminal code of Texas has prohibited the sale or possession of horse meat since 1949, but the law was never enforced.

• In 2002, responding to citizen and local government concerns about the two foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the state - Dallas Crown in Kaufman and Beltex in Fort Worth - then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn issued a written opinion that the 1949 Texas law applies and may be enforced.

• In response, the Tarrant County District Attorney attempted to enforce the law, but last year a federal district court in Texas ruled that the law was repealed by another statute and preempted by federal law.

• The District Attorney appealed that decision last year, and the HSUS filed an amicus brief in the case in March 2006.

• In January 2007, a federal court of appeals upheld a Texas state law declaring horse slaughter illegal in that state. Appeals from the slaughterhouses were rejected in March.

Horse slaughter in the news

SAPL