Monday, March 25, 2013

Horse slaughter bill appears unstoppable

By World's Editorials Writers

The horse-slaughter train is roaring down the track and it appears there will be no stopping it.

House Bill 1999 would allow the slaughtering of horses in Oklahoma and shipment of the meat to other countries. Horse meat is not consumed as food in the United States.

The measure has passed the House, cleared committee in the Senate and might be taken up on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday.

There is something about the rush to pass this misconceived legislation that doesn't smell right. The measure passed a Senate committee last week on a unanimous vote, with no discussion or debate. It is ludicrous to think that an issue as controversial as this would not prompt debate, or at least a few questions raised.

What this suggests is that lawmakers know that many, perhaps most, of their constituents oppose the horse slaughterhouse bill but the word has come down from the leadership that the bill is to be passed regardless, and with as little fuss as possible.

On Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman lent his support to HB 1999, an unsurprising but still disappointing development.

Bingman doesn't see slaughtering horses as an embarrassment to the state. He sees allowing slaughterhouses as a humane alternative for dealing with old, feeble or sick horses. That's been the constant refrain on the horse-slaughter advocates.

The idea that humane care for old, feeble and sick horses is the primary motivation for permitting a practice that as of now is not permitted by any other state is laughable. There is no way that there are enough such animals to profitably operate a slaughterhouse. Healthy animals will have to be imported from other states and ultimately horses will have to be bred and raised for slaughter.

The pro-slaughter crowd touts the economic benefits but in fact the practice will be of minimal economic benefit, with most of that accruing to the state's horse auctioneers, including the family of Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, author of HB 1999.

The horse-slaughter crowd claims that there is no difference between slaughtering horses and cattle, but that's not really true. Cattle are raised to be food. The slaughter of any animal can be a difficult process, but it is the nature of horses to resist, to escape or even fight back when threatened. Horses, at least in this country, are not raised to be food. They are bred and trained to be work mates and companions for people.

It's probable that a majority of Oklahomans find the slaughter of horses for exported meat repugnant. But it's full steam ahead for the Legislature. If HB 1999 passes the Senate the only roadblock remaining is the scant hope that Gov. Mary Fallin would veto it.

Get ready. If you liked cockfighting you'll love horse slaughter.

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