Horse Slaughter Back on the Table?

To lift the ban is to encourage the overbreeding of horses, witnesses testified

Horses awaiting slaughter at Dallas Xrown
Horses awaiting slaughter at Dallas Xrown (Photo courtesy of

It would be better to have a "lead-smelting plant and sex-oriented businesses up and down" a city's main drag than it would be to have a horse slaughtering facility in any Texas town, former Kaufman, Texas, mayor Pam Bacon told the Texas Senate Commit­tee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs in a nearly four-hour meeting at the Capitol on the possible resumption of horse slaughtering in Texas – a practice that has been banned in the state since 1949.

The industry, she testified, brought nothing positive to Kaufman – home to the Dallas Crown Inc. horse slaughter plant, one of three U.S. slaughterhouses (the others were in Fort Worth and Dekalb, Ill.) when the industry was effectively shuttered in 2007 after the federal government discontinued funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horse meat – primarily shipped to Europe and Japan for human consumption. Crime was high while the plant operated there, she noted, and the burden the plant placed on the city's environmental infrastructure was enormous. Indeed, during the mid-Eighties, the plant was shuttered for nearly a year because neither the plant nor the city's water treatment facility was able to process the antibiotic-laden horse blood. "Literally, blood was coming up through the streets," she testified, "and into people's bathtubs." When the plant finally shut down, the city of Kaufman was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

But now, five years later, and on the heels of a move to again give the USDA funding to inspect horse meat, Lt. Gov. David Dew­hurst has asked the ag affairs committee to review state laws related to the closure of horse slaughter facilities across the country and the impact that has had on the equine industry, and agricultural sector of the state's economy.

While the livestock industry may be in favor of bringing equine slaughter back to Texas, it is unlikely that there will actually be any market for U.S. horses to be sold for meat. New rules in the European Union that take effect next summer will require all out-of-country horses destined for human consumption to come with a lifelong "passport," a cradle-to-grave document that includes all drugs the horse has ever been given, testified Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses, a Texas nonprofit equine sanctuary. Since most U.S. horses are raised as companion or working animals, and are routinely given numerous drugs, including some common antibiotics not allowed by the EU, there will no longer be a foreign market for U.S. horse meat. In other words, said Keith Dane, the director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the U.S., there is really "no viable reason" to even consider lifting the state's ban. In all, witnesses said, to encourage horse slaughter is also to encourage the overbreeding of horses, a problem that is far more responsible for equine neglect and abandonment than is the shuttering of an inhumane industry.

It is now up to the ag committee to decide whether to recommend the next Legislature, convening in January 2013, take action on the issue or leave in place the decades-old ban.

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