January 29, 2008

South Dakota's legislature has been criticised by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) over a proposed law change that could see the state making a $US1 million loan available to any firm wanting to build a horse slaughter plant in the state.

The group is urging people concerned for animal welfare to make their views known to their senators and representatives.

AWI director of government and legal affairs Cathy Liss says the bill was introduced to the legislature last week. It is scheduled for a hearing before the South Dakota State Senate and House Agriculture Committees on Tuesday morning.

"Currently, no horse slaughtering facilities operate in the United States: both Texas and Illinois shuttered the remaining domestic plants in 2007 in response to strong public opposition to horse slaughter," Liss says.

"The opening of a plant in South Dakota would be a huge step backwards for American horses and would have a tremendously negative impact on the state."

Americans, she said, overwhelmingly oppose horse slaughter and this has resulted in the closure of the remaining foreign-owned domestic plants (in Texas and Illinois).

"South Dakota would be out of step with public sentiment if the state legislature passes [this] into law and this will reflect unfavorably on the state.

"The overwhelming majority of horses they would slaughter come from other states, including stolen horses and horses sold under false pretences."

Liss said the state risked using taxpayer dollars to support an industry that may well be shut if the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is passed in 2008.

"The loan ... would be foolhardy," she says.