On Friday, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed a bill to allow horse slaughter within the state.
House Bill 1999 prohibits the sale of horse meat for human consumption, but allows for the opening of horse slaughtering facilities in the state of Oklahoma. Forty-six other states already have laws allowing horse slaughter. Only Texas, California, and Illinois still have laws against horse slaughtering.
Horses in the U.S. are nearly always kept as pets, although there are some that work. Because they are not raised for meat, there are few limitations on the drugs that are given to the horses during their lives, even up to the moment of their deaths. Many of those drugs are dangerous for humans, rendering horse meat unfit for human consumption.
Currently, horses are purchased in the U.S. and shipped abroad for slaughtering. Supporters of horse slaughter in the U.S. claim that aging and unwanted horses will be abused if there are no slaughterhouses. In the statement from the governor’s office, Gov. Fallin said:
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.
Simply making the slaughter of horses legal in the state doesn’t mean a slaughterhouse will open there any time soon. USDA meat inspectors have to be on the premises for slaughter to be legal. With the recent sequester, the beef industry has lost 8% of their inspection days. I doubt they will want to share the limited inspectors with an industry that isn’t even popular here in the U.S.
Neglected horse photo Patricia Evans, Utah State University