Horse News

Repeating History: Remember Why Horse Slaughter was Banned

Source: Janet Pearson as published in Tulsa

For a lot of Oklahomans, the undeniable horribleness of horse slaughter is reason enough to maintain the state’s ban on the grisly business.

Eye of the SlaughteredBut of course, meat production is an inherently unpleasant undertaking. Which raises the question: Are there other good reasons to continue the ban?

Apparently leaders and residents of Texas, Tennessee, New Mexico, Oregon and Missouri, among other states, seem to think so.

Evidence from the experience of the two states where slaughterhouses most recently operated is resurfacing and is proving to be persuasive in those states where new slaughterhouses are being proposed. Slaughterhouse plans have been proposed in about a half-dozen states, including Oklahoma, since Congress lifted the ban on domestic horse meat inspections in late 2011, which paved the way for their return in the U.S.

Water pollution, the never-ending stench of blood, waste and offal, wastewater system problems, extensive legal battles and the negative stigma that drives out other businesses are only a few of the long-running problems these communities had to endure, in some cases for decades.

Compelling evidence

Very little horsemeat is consumed in the U.S., which means Americans will be paying for inspections of facilities that slaughter horses for consumption in other countries if any new facilities are built here. Currently, more than 100,000 American horses a year are transported to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico that serve foreign markets. The fact that there is little oversight over these transports, though that’s required by federal law, is reason to suspect there won’t be adequate supervision of new slaughterhouses either.

Aside from the humane arguments against commercial slaughter – which are indeed compelling – there are equally compelling economic and environmental arguments.

In the wake of the federal action allowing horse slaughterhouses, several bills that would repeal the state’s prohibition on the commercial slaughter of horses in Oklahoma are working their way through the Legislature. Other states have been contemplating such facilities, too, but generally the plans have been getting an unwelcome response.

A year ago in Mountain Grove, Mo., hundreds of area residents jammed a meeting room and booed and hissed as proponents of a horse slaughterhouse made their pitch. According to reports, the “egregious” damage done to the three communities that were near the now-closed facilities was persuasive in turning residents against the plan.

Last fall in Hermiston, Ore., residents also united to take a stand against a proposed plant. And this from townspeople who were OK with an Army chemical depot that “stockpiled rockets, bombs and land mines armed with nerve gas and mustard agents,” according to the Oregonian.

Mayor Robert Severson said his town is the fastest-growing community in eastern Oregon, and that the slaughter plant might discourage other new businesses from locating there.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say, “Thank God that you took a stand against the horse slaughter plant,” he said.

Last spring, New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez and other state officials came out against a proposal to open a slaughterhouse there. And last fall, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill banning horse slaughter in that state.

‘No justification’

Former Mayor Paula Bacon displays outstanding fines and taxes still owed by Belgian Horse Slaughter plant ~ photo by Terry Fitch/courtesy of the Equine Welfare Alliance

Former Mayor Paula Bacon displays outstanding fines and taxes still owed by Belgian Horse Slaughter plant ~ photo by Terry Fitch/courtesy of the Equine Welfare Alliance

But by far the most compelling arguments against the renewed efforts to open slaughterhouses come from someone who knows too well what the consequences can be. Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, Texas, wrote a letter to Missouri officials last year explaining in agonizing detail what her town endured for more than two decades. City leaders finally pursued legal action and succeeded in closing the plant down. Though the plant has been closed for half a decade, Bacon continues her crusade against them, driven by her city’s dreadful experience.

She said the facility caused “significant and long-term hardship to my community,” and “from the beginning … caused problems both economically and environmentally.”

She cited local documentation of “decaying meat (which) provides a foul odor and is an attraction for vermin and carrion,” containers that carried “uncovered and leaking liquids,” and “significant foul odors during the daily monitoring of the area.”

The operator had “a very long history of violations to their industrial waste permit” and denied the city access to the property for required wastewater testing.

Reports from city inspectors found “blood flowing east and west in the ditches from (the) plant,” and noted that cleanup did not occur for nearly two months.

“Your system has not improved and subsequently it has gotten a lot worse,” wrote an inspector. And another: “Words cannot express the seriousness” of recent violations.

“Bones and blood lying in front of the facility” ended up in neighborhoring yards, attracting dogs and other animals.

The legal battles drained the city’s resources, consuming the entire legal department budget of $70,000 one year.

Bacon also relayed similar experiences that occurred at plants in Fort Worth and DeKalb, Ill. All three of the plants are now closed.

“I have mentioned only the pollution issue, but this is but one negative aspect of horse slaughter,” she continued. ” … Behind the privacy fences of these plants, trucks arrived continuously and on those trucks was every form of inhumane violation one can imagine, from mares birthing foals to horses with eyes dangling from their sockets and legs ripped from their bodies.”

“The more I learn about horse slaughter, the more certain I am: There is no justification for horse slaughter in this country. My city was little more than a doormat for the foreign-owned business that drained our resources, thwarted economic development and stigmatized our community. … There is no justification for spending American tax dollars to support this industry at the expense of Americans and our horses.”

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28 replies »

  1. Oklahoman’s can’t really all be this stupid. There has to be an underlying cause that’s put this on the fast track in their house and senate. Is it money? Is it a behind-the-scenes deal with the BLM to cull the rapidly growing number of wild horses held in captivity in their state?

    What else could it be? Domestic horses that have had any previous veterinary drugs will never pass USDA inspection and any meat shipped overseas has to pass otherwise it’s so much waste. Only the wild horses might make the grade.

    Yes they are pumped with dewormers and vaccines when captured due to the close quarters but those might have a shorter withdrawal time than say Bute.

    The OK legislation also puts in place a chain of ownership i.e. has to be sold through an auction barn to livestock buyers. Could this be a veiled attempt to put distance between the Federal Government and the ultimate demise of the wild ones?

    I know this ain’t Denmark but something is rotten!


    • Yes, Steve, I believe you are onto something. Here in Umatilla county, Oregon, David Duquette tried to talk the local Native American tribes – who are responsible for wild horse round-ups on their vast lands – into supporting his slaughterhouse proposal in nearby Hermiston. Because of their reverence for nature, the leadership opposed this atrocity. The BLM doesn’t seem to share the same scruples. (By the way, Native wild horses are widely adopted 1st by tribal members and then the general public).

      Thank you Janet Pearson for mentioning Hermiston’s Mayor Bob Severson. I am sad to tell you that this honorable man recently passed away from heart issues. It is true that most of the residents of the small, rural city of Hermiston were appalled by the spector of a horse slaughter plant defiling their community, championed by this brave soul.


    • this is so the auction yard gets a cut…first..they charge you a fee to sell the horse and then they take a percentage of the sale price…horses are selling for 10-100 dollars the time the horse owner pays all the fees and deducts the cost of fuel time food hotel..they come out in the hole..for a couple of dollars more you can humanely euthanise your horse..or donate it to a therapy organization


    • We have been waiting on this meeting with BLM and expecting the worst. But I do not see how they can Tell us they are going to kill our captives because that is illegal. They have been doing all they can behind our backs and that seems to be continuing even though they know we are onto them. I do expect this to keep on getting uglier as we are up against a huge agency with the power of a separate, corrupt nation.


  2. Steve, I agree with you. I don’t like conspiracy therories, but there certainly seems to be something driving this legislation. I can only think it is the fact that the main legislator pushing this is part of a family that owns auction houses and could possbly have made a deal with the BLM. I wonder what has happened to bring such bad people back into the slaughter issue.


  3. Want to inform You, Steve, we have a horse-market in Poland -I uploaded some articles about –
    I have so many, many photos here from horses, suffering unmeasuble pains. We, loving horses, could see these pains! Each day I could read stories about horse-meat – no, no, no, horse is no meat, no, no, no! I am not interested in whether people eat horse”meat” in their burgers or not.
    My focus is, to stop the cruelty, done on horses, not the wealth or health of people, eating meat.
    Hoping You could understand my poor English:
    created 2 videos, if You want to see them, please, tell me; i don´t dare to put it unto my blog.


  4. Thank you for this. What the author doesn’t mention in the article is that a slaughter factory community can count on being the drug, alcohol, meth lab, suicide, murder, and illegal immigrant capitol of their state. Americans don’t like torturing animals 8 hours daily. I know this from friends at the Mayo Clinic system in MN, who have to treat Austin, MN patients’ bizarre illnesses, and from growing up where Hormel now kills 30,000 animals daily. Austin recently hit up the taxpayers to put a huge prison DOWNTOWN, a block east of Main Street. The full length of the building parallels Main, and the Hormel plant in a 3-5 minute walk north. The river runs through this. Whatever they pour into the river makes the water bubble. The stench of this horror is “the smell of money”, as the saying goes.Kathleen


  5. Disgust! The evil & corruption. One would think that the “horse meat scandal” in Europe, & all the documented scientific *facts about horse meat a serIous danger to human health, would be an Oklahoma moral “NO” to slaughter. Truly unbelievable. Another extreme, very “telling” example, $$$ & Greed triumphs over humanity & humane.



    Lawmaker wants to give Oklahoma citizens recall power
    By Peter J. Rudy / February 21, 2012 / 3 Comments
    Oklahoma would become the 20th state to allow citizens to petition for recall elections under an amendment proposed by Rep. Danny Morgan (D-Prague). Morgan filed his amendment today to House Bill 2449 by Rep. Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) which deals with municipal elections.
    Under Morgan’s amendment, “every elected officer of this state and any political subdivision thereof” will be eligible for a recall. Those wanting to recall an elected official will have 90-days to gather signatures of registered voters totaling at least 15% of the number of voters in the most recent general election. If a petition is successful, the recall election will feature two questions: shall the official be recalled and who shall replace the official? Under the language of the amendment, the official being recalled cannot be on the list of replacements.
    In an interview with Oklahoma Watchdog Editor Peter J. Rudy, Morgan said he’s heard from his constituents that they would like the ability to recall officials. Morgan’s amendment does not have any parameters on how soon after an election a recall could be initiated nor any guidelines on how many recalls could be attempted against the same official. When questioned about this, Morgan said, “I’m willing to make some changes to make sure it is so that we can control that because that really is a concern if you have just one group of militant individuals out there that they can circumvent the will of the majority of voters.” (see full interview with Morgan below)
    Morgan says he understands there would be a cost associated with a recall – House fiscal staff says a statewide recall election could cost a million dollars – but that sometimes you have to pay that price, “if they are willing to go out and sign a petition, then they think it’s worth the expense.”
    Two states that border Oklahoma (Colorado, Kansas) and another in the region (Louisiana) are among the 19 states with recall provisions according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


  7. About the Kaufman, Texas, plant:

    “Your system has not improved and subsequently it has gotten a lot worse,” wrote an inspector.”

    And nothing has occured in the interim to lessen that statement; horse slaughter and transport remain corrupt and barbaric. The USDA can’t fund inspectors – it barely has enough money to inspect standard slaughterhouses – but really, what’s food safety and humane handling when compared to representatives who want what THEY want?

    There’s still no money in the Ag budget for enforcement of humane transport for horses destined for slaughter. That’s not going to change, either.

    The EPA runs as swift and smooth as a brick getting windblown uphill; that agency is too busy NOT ensuring enforcement of environmental protections already in place. No business that puts the public health at risk through poor environmental practices has anything to fear from the EPA.

    With no protections for either the animals or the environment in place – and no improvements to the methods of slaughter and disposal – horse slaughter on the state level appears to be a hopeful ‘work-in-progress’, simply makin’ up the rules as they go along and someone else (the citizens of Oklahoma, for example) can deal with the consequences.

    Two big snivels about Oklahoma’s law-makers pushing this deal through: First, all that effort, money and power SHOULD have been used to find solutions to the core issue (according to Rep. Skye McNeil, the dumping of old horses) – Oklahoma’s struggling economy. Why do people feel compelled to abandon their animals? Because they can’t afford to feed them? Because they’ve lost their jobs or their homes? This legislation will do nothing to address that – and benefit only a very few.

    Second snivel: More than half of the BLM’s 23 Long Term Pastures are in Oklahoma. BLM has demonstrated an inability to address the Public’s concerns for wild horses living in the Midwest, a region besieged by drought (aside from an all-purpose ‘form letter’) and a lack of concern for how those animals keep ‘disappearing’ from holding. Is there any expectation that Oklahoma’s wild horses will remain safe from the Okalhoma legislature? (If I recall correctly, Ms. McNeil had also lobbied briefly to repeal the Wild Horse and Burro Act).

    I may be blinded by my own beliefs, but I cannot see how this will benefit Oklahoma as a whole, only those legislators with a vested interest.


  8. I am at my wit’s end trying to wrap my mind around this one. It makes no sense to me. My husband and I are getting ready to make a big move and as soon as we get settled, I plan on starting an adoption process so that we can adopt as many BLM mustangs as we can physically handle. The limit is now 8 per year. If they keep culling the herds like they are doing we will soon be at risk for an endangered species of the “Wild Mustang”, but the BLM doesn’t see that way, unfortunately. Better that I can keep them, keep them healthy, love them and feed them while they are alive than to worry they will die at the hands of a “butcher”. I despise the BLM and what has come to pass in the government!


  9. Time to Clean House….EVERYWHERE:
    Oklahoma’s Mystery Meat
    » January 31st, 2013
    The most common pharmacological concern when it comes to horse meat is an anti-inflammatory drug called phenylbutazone, or “bute.” Whatever the exact lineup of drugs administered, many racehorses receive a steady dosage of bute. For all its effectiveness in treating horse pain, however, bute, a carcinogen, is strongly linked with bone marrow and liver problems in humans. In fact, the danger it poses is so acute that the FDA has banned its use in animals intended for human consumption because, according to one peer-reviewed study in Food and Chemical Toxicology, “it causes serious and lethal idiosyncratic adverse effects in humans.”

    I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: Oklahoma legislators know this and they DO NOT CARE.
    The bills slated to be heard on Tuesday are one small but tragic step in a much larger process of trying to legalize the slaughter, sale, and consumption of horses in the United States. It involves dozens of corrupt state and federal officials. And it’s all driven by greed and a complete disregard for animals and, frankly, the humans who are expected t eat them. With the help of Vickery Eckhoff (who truly “owns” this story), I plan to keep readers updated as this conspiracy of sorts unfolds.

    In the meantime,
    Contact the Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in Oklahoma that has the power to decide whether to hear SB375 or not. Thank you!
    Senator Eddie Fields
    2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Rm. 416
    Oklahoma City, OK 73105
    (405) 521-5581
    Executive Assistant: Betsy Ingraham


  10. Odds are….”they” will just let the Horses go WITHOUT pain killers of any kind. Just follow the money and see WHO got paid and WHERE the money came from….and WHERE it’s going.


  11. ““I have mentioned only the pollution issue, but this is but one negative aspect of horse slaughter,” she continued. ” … Behind the privacy fences of these plants, trucks arrived continuously and on those trucks was every form of inhumane violation one can imagine, from mares birthing foals to horses with eyes dangling from their sockets and legs ripped from their bodies.”” This just cannot happen any longer it has to stop, society is insane to allow these zombies to even entertain the thought ..insane..caused by the GMO food, the prions in meat..the hormones, drugs and contaminates in all the meat food supply..


    • The demand and disregard for horses (or any other animal) as sentinent beings is driven by our insatiable, unhealthy addiction to cheap meat. Once your eyes are really open to their pain and suffering, you will not be able to go backwards. Dominique is right, it is mass insanity fueled by greed.


  12. Reblogged this on redemptionforanimals and commented:
    “I have mentioned only the pollution issue, but this is but one negative aspect of horse slaughter,” she continued. ” … Behind the privacy fences of these plants, trucks arrived continuously and on those trucks was every form of inhumane violation one can imagine, from mares birthing foals to horses with eyes dangling from their sockets and legs ripped from their bodies.”Add your thoughts here… (optional)


  13. Today the Governor of Oklahoma was keeping track of the pro and anti slaughter phone calls coming in. The man I spoke to was not normally one to talk to the public and I asked him if it was true what the governor was doing and he said “Yes.” I told him I was not for the return of horse slaughter and I would be in OK. City for the BLM meeting. He had not known about this meeting of the Wild Horse and Burro Board and asked me more. I did say there would be a midday press conference on Monday. He was glad to get this information. It seems this governor is thinking about all this. That at least is a plus.


  14. Granted I haven’t read the comments but I have a bit of nice news. One of the legisaltor’s fromOK wrote me back indicating that he was working to understand the whole horse issue. Now it might be lip service but I hope not.

    I sent him a long letter back citing some of the transport violations. I tried to explain about Bute. I referred this man to Paula because I felt she could do a much better job explaining about the issues in TX.

    I can only hope this man was serious. That he will ask questions and consider things seriously.


    Oklahoma Legislators Considering Horse Slaughter, Meat Production
    • By Holly Wall

    The Horse, a blog about equine health and care, reported, “HB 1999, introduced by REP. SKYE McNIEL, would allow horse slaughter in Oklahoma, but prohibits the sale of horsemeat for human consumption in the state. SB 375, a separate Senate bill introduced by State Sen. Mark Allen, would allow the sale of horsemeat for human consumption in Oklahoma.”

    “What’s behind it are the 140,000-150,000 U.S. horses that are now being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico for markets overseas plus about 45,000 mustangs unwisely removed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from public lands and warehoused at taxpayer expense to make more room for cattle grazing. This is a wasteful program but “welfare cattle grazing,” the reason most commonly blamed for the removals, is even more wasteful of taxpayer dollars.”
    “These horses, many held in long-term holding pens in Oklahoma, are considered “EXCESS” by the BLM and there are quite a few people in the meat trade who’d happily buy them cheap and sell them at a large profit to slaughter plants…”

    “They also want to slaughter horses disposed of by racetracks, rodeos, horse breeders and owners struggling in the recession—a sizeable surplus market that has made the actual raising of horses as meat animals (similar to cattle) completely unnecessary in the U.S. for decades.”

    “Oklahoma SENATOR MARK ALLEN is trying to harness that business for his home state, which ranks fourth in the nation in horse ownership per capita. His bill (SB375) would overturn Oklahoma’s existing 1963 ban on selling and producing horsemeat—a somewhat dodgy maneuver, given Oklahoma’s present billing as the “horse show capital of the U.S.”

    “The state also happens to have several struggling racetracks as well as a large cattle industry. Ignoring the branding problem of slaughtering horses in “the horse show capital of the U.S,” there are huge food-safety problems connected to slaughtering horses that have been ignored for years and that the Tesco and Burger King debacles are slowly bringing to light.”

    “A writer at The Daily Kos accused McNiel of potentially violating state ethics rules with her bill: “REPRESENTATIVE McNIEL’S FAMILY HAS A FINANCIAL INTEREST IN A LIVESTOCK AUCTION HOUSE IN OKLAHOMA that features bi-weekly horse sales,” the writer, “meepdog,” wrote. He or she also outlined some reasons why “horses should not be slaughtered for human consumption,” including increased crime rate, decreased property value, recalls, and environmental concerns.


    Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 09:18 PM PST

    It’s Not OK, Oklahoma!

    by meepdogFollow
    Oklahoma State Representative Skye McNiel has served up a horse slaughter for human consumption bill for Oklahoma, HB1999, despite ethics issues she perhaps should have considered, as well as the many unintended consequences of horse slaughter.
    Ethical Misconduct?

    Representative McNiel’s family has a financial interest in a livestock auction house in Oklahoma that features bi-weekly horse sales. However, according to OK’s “CONSTITUTIONAL ETHICS RULES governing the ETHICAL CONDUCT of STATE OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES and CAMPAIGNS for STATE OFFICE OR STATE ISSUES EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2011″ Ms. McNiel may be in violation of her state’s ethics rules.

    Representative McNiel has at the very least, “…a reasonably foreseeable benefit…” from the legislation that she’s introduced.


  17. Sure sounds like a conflict of interest to me. Did anyone have any notice that this was being discussed in their state capital? I went to many meetings in Springfield, Illinois while were trying to
    get Cavel, Intl closed in Illinois. In fact I think there were at least 3 readings. This is where we all have to be the eyes and ears for each other. RT, thank you again for keeping us up on what is going on. This allows us to also get our local armies together so we can send our emails, letters and phone calls. We need to keep the phones calls and emails going to Oklahoma as we NEVER want a slaughterhouse open in the US again!


  18. Talked to Travis yesterday at the govenors office ..he said the bill is still in the legislature…i suggested he have the govenor relay to them the economic disaster a slaughterhouse will bring down on their heads and listed the sectors affected..I told him him I had been coming to OKLA since 1978 from Oregon for the AQHA world show but could no longer in good conscience attend any events in OKLA..where horse slaughter is being conducted…in reading okla newspapers on line, not many support this…80% opposed


  19. Has any reporter sent these inhumane,cruel videos to the governors? U should and u should show the American people these videos….maybe that way we Americans can put a stop to this for the horses.We have to b there voices for them!


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