Governor Mary Fallin moments ago gave her stamp of approval to the horse processing bill which allows for slaughter houses in Oklahoma.
With the stroke of a pen, Fallin lifted a 50-year state ban on horse slaughter and may have temporarily ended a month-long debate in what has arguably been the most controversial issue of the year.
It’s a major victory for Rep. Skye McNiel, the author of the legislation, who became the primary target of animal rights groups as well as the left-leaning Tulsa World editorial board.
McNiel has received thousands of phone calls and emails including some which had to be investigated by the OSBI because of threats.
Said Fallin: “In Oklahoma – as in other states – abuse is tragically common among horses that are reaching the end of their natural lives. Many horses are abandoned or left to starve to death. Others are shipped out of the country, many to Mexico, where they are processed in potentially inhumane conditions that are not regulated by the U.S. government.“Unfortunately, the 2006 federal ban on horse processing plants has made this situation worse. After the implementation of that ban, the Government Accountability Office reported a 60 percent increase in abused, neglected and starved horses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also noted that over 166,000 horses were sent to Canada and Mexico for processing just in 2012. These animals traveled long distances, in potentially inhumane circumstances, only to meet their end in foreign processing plants that do not face the same level of regulation or scrutiny that American plants would.“Those of us who care about the well being of horses – and we all should – cannot be satisfied with a status quo that encourages abuse and neglect, or that rewards the potentially inhumane slaughter of animals in foreign countries.
“For that reason, I have today signed HB 1999, which would allow the humane, regulated processing of horses. This bill strictly prohibits selling horse meat for human consumption in Oklahoma.
“My thanks go out to the many horse owners, farmers and ranchers, animal lovers and concerned citizens who have contacted me regarding this issue. I appreciate the willingness of so many individuals and groups to get involved and engage their elected officials. My office diligently worked to ensure input from all sides of the issue was carefully considered during the consideration of this bill. I appreciate and support the efforts of those who have expressed a desire to donate land, money and resources to provide for abandoned horses. I believe the direction pursued by the Oklahoma Legislature, in a bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans and passed by large margins, is both practical and humane.”
“There are currently no processing facilities in the state. Should there ever be a processing facility planned, my administration will work with the Department of Agriculture to ensure it is run appropriately, follows all state and local laws, and is not a burden or hazard to the community. It’s important to note cities, counties and municipalities still have the ability to express their opposition to processing facilities by blocking their construction and operation at the local level.”
The signing of HB1999 is a win for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
While today’s action is about horses, the agricultural groups were unified, aware that the next battle could be about pork, poultry or cattle.
Oklahoma becomes the 47th state to allow for horse slaughter.
Both houses of the Legislature passed the issue overwhelming with bi-partisan support.
Observers say the issue may be only the first round in a fight determining the property rights of individuals and industry versus the rights of animals.
Much of the opposition flowed in from out-of-state groups and bloggers who kept the phones lit up at the Capitol and which overtook internet blogs, including The McCarville Report, which has consistently reported on the issue.
Defeated was the Humane Society of the United States, which hired two lobbyists at the Capitol and an Oklahoma pollster to help make their case.
The Farm Bureau was joined by the Oklahoma Veterinarian Medical Association in support of the bill, and also was backed by an Iowa group known as Protect the Harvest, which ran radio spots backing the horse slaughter legislation.