On March 29, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law reversing Oklahoma’s ban on horse processing plants in the Sooner State.
Although several states have bans on horse slaughter (California, Illinois and Texas currently prohibit equine processing plants), it’s not banned in the United States as a whole. In 2007, funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections for horse slaughter plants ended, effectively shutting down the last remaining plants. However, that law expired in 2011 and has not been renewed.
Companies wanting to process horses for meat must apply to and be approved by the USDA, but none have succeeded so far. With the current laws, if a plant is approved, the USDA must inspect it, according to Valerie Pringle of the Humane Society of the United States.
In a statement, Fallin cited growing abuse and neglect for elderly horses as well as conditions of plants in Mexico and Canada as reasons for signing the bill into law.
“Those of us who care about the wellbeing 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,” Fallin said.
The bill, HB1999, goes into effect on Nov. 1 and passed 82-14 in the House and 32-14 in the Senate. Oklahoma’s largest agriculture segment is the beef industry, which has recently begun to speak in support of horse processing plants.
The bill comes on the heels of continued concern about tainted meat in Europe as well as the introduction of the SAFE Act in the United States, which would ban horse slaughter.
Pringle, an equine protection specialist with the HSUS, expressed concerns about meat tainted with medication used for human consumption.
“It really is about food safety,” said Pringle. “If we start slaughtering horses here, what are the chances it could end up in our food supply? Hard to say, but I would say the possibility certainly exists.”