Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Horse Processing Bill

Legislators in Oklahoma have lifted a 50-year ban on horse processing in that state by passing a House bill that allows horse slaughter there.

Since 1963, horse slaughter for human consumption has been forbidden by Oklahoma state statute. Meanwhile, horse processing has not taken place anywhere in the United States since 2007 when a combination of legislation and court decisions shuttered the last remaining horse processing plants. Horse processing in the United States again became possible in 2012 when Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed legislation that did not specifically deny the USDA funding to carry out inspections at domestic horses processing plants. Since then, plant developments have been proposed in several states, but no U.S. horse processing plants are currently operating.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma State Rep. Skye McNiel introduced HB 1999, a bill to allow horse slaughter for human consumption in Oklahoma, but which prohibits the sale of horsemeat in Oklahoma. SB 375, a separate Senate bill introduced by State Sen. Mark Allen, would allow horsemeat processed in Oklahoma to be sold for export only to international markets. Some equine advocates have opposed the bills by claiming that horse processing plant development does not make good economic sense for Oklahoma or any other state. Some also opposed horse processing on grounds that meat derived from U. S. horses could contain the residue of drugs routinely administered to horses, such as phenylbutazone, but which could be harmful to humans.

On Feb. 20, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed HB 1999 by an 82-14 margin. The Oklahoma State Senate passed SB 375 by a 38-6 vote on the same day. SB 375 remains pending in the Oklahoma House’s Committee on Agriculture and Wildlife.

On March 26, the Oklahoma State Senate passed HB 1999 by a vote of 34-14. In a written statement, HB 1999 sponsor Rep. Skye McNiel said that legislation, which received bipartisan support, will ultimately benefit the state’s horses.

“I have said repeatedly that when all the facts regarding this issue are on the table and our lawmakers are educated on this issue, they will find that this bill is a much more humane way to treat these animals, to manage the population, and to control the neglect that we are seeing when irresponsible owners decide they can no longer take care of their horses,” McNiel’s statement said.

The bill now moves on for Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk for her signature. Gubernatorial Press Secretary Aaron Cooper said that the bill is expected to reach Fallin’s desk on March 27. Fallin then has five business days to review the legislation. Whether Fallin will sign the bill into law is uncertain, Cooper said.

“She (Gov. Falllin) has not committed one way or another on the bill,” said Cooper. “We will issue a statement when the governor makes a decision.”

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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