Hard Fought Battle Opposing
Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption

Story by Pat Enyart

Grueling months of political chess over the horse slaughter bill at the Texas State Capitol finally came to an end, during the final days of this year’s legislative meeting.

Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, wrote a bill (HB 1324), to overturn the current law, which would allow horse slaughter for human consumption, and the horsemeat sold to foreign countries.

Last August, then Attorney General, John Coryn ruled that that two foreign owned plants, Beltex, and Dallas Crown, located near Ft. Worth, were operating in direct violation of Chapter 149 of the Agriculture Code which makes it a criminal offense to sell, possess or transfer horse meat for human consumption.

In response to the attorney general’s ruling, the slaughter plants claimed since they had USDA supervision, and paid state and county fees, that they were exempt, and promptly filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction.

During this time, dozens of animal protection agencies, and thousands of individual horse owners, from all over the country gathered in force to defeat the bill. There were rallies across the nation, and the letters and calls poured into the Capitol. Huge media coverage ensued, which included footage of live horse slaughter on the television news.

By the time HB 1324 passed in the House, and came before the Senate, they had already heard enough strong opposition to the controversial bill, and allowed it to die. One Senator’s office was quoted as saying that they received more calls and letters against this bill, than any other on the entire calendar, including tax hikes, teacher layoffs, and the budget!
Mason-Dixon Polling and Research conducted a statewide voter survey concerning horse slaughter in early May. The survey revealed, “77 percent of Texas voters were opposed to changing state law to legalize the slaughter of horses for human consumption.”

Seemingly undaunted by the will of the people, Rep. Brown, along with bill co-sponsor Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, pulled a last-minute maneuver by tacking on an amendment to a totally unrelated bill which had already passed Senate, as a final attempt to resurrect the horse slaughter legislation. This time however, the wording was changed to include selling horsemeat in the United States. Even the supporters of the original bill (HB 1324) weren’t ready to take on this taboo, and the author of SB 1413 was even less thrilled about this amendment being stuck on his bill.

Finally, during the last days of the session, a special committee comprised of 5 House members, and 5 Senators, successfully removed the addendum by a majority vote of 7-3, thus putting an end to all the political drama, and an emotional battle by the horse owners.

The court hearing for the slaughter plants is in July. In the mean time, hundreds of horses per week are still being slaughtered.

With a strong message of opposition to horse slaughter coming from Texas, the focus now turns to passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 857), currently before the U.S. Congress. This Act will prohibit the slaughter of horses in the United States and ensure that American horses are not shipped to Canada, Mexico or Japan to be slaughtered for human consumption. Dallas Congressman Martin Frost has just become the first Texas representative to be added to the list of cosponsors on the bill.

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