Bill would Forbid Horse Processing in Maine

Horse processing and the transport of horses to slaughter plants in Canada would be illegal in Maine under a bill now pending in that state's legislature.

Horse slaughter has not taken place in the United States since 2007 when a combination of legislation and court decisions shuttered the last remaining horse processing plants. Since 2007, horses have been transported to plants in Mexico and Canada for processing, while U.S. several states have enacted legislation that would ban horse processing plant development. In November 2011, horse processing for human consumption again became possible in the United States when Congress passed legislation that did not specifically deny the USDA funding to carry out inspections at domestic horses processing plants. Currently, no horse processing plants are operating in the United States; however, a proposed plant in New Mexico is awaiting a permit that would allow USDA Food Inspection Service personnel to carry out horsemeat inspections at that plant.

On April 2, Maine State Reps. Gary Knight and Elizabeth Dickerson introduced LD 1286, a bipartisan bill that would forbid anyone from causing the death or slaughter of a horse intended for human consumption. The legislation would also forbid anyone from giving or receiving a horse intended for slaughter, and establishes statewide ban the export or import of horses to Maine for transport to processing plants elsewhere. If passed, LD 1286 would forbid the sale of horsemeat for human consumption in Maine as well as banning the development of horse processing plants in that state. If LD 1286 becomes law violators could be charged with a felony crime. If convicted, violators could be court-ordered to receive mental health evaluation and counseling, could be barred from owning or residing with animals, and could be required to receive humane instruction as ordered by the court.

According to the Maine Friends of Animals website, 1,500 horses annually travel through Maine to processing plants in Canada. Robert Fisk, spokesman for that statewide humane organization, said that proponents pondered introducing introducing similar legislation three years ago but based on the make-up of the legislature decided not to pursue it.

“We support the legislation and given the mood and make-up of the legislature, we think the time is right for this legislation,” Fisk said.

However the bill is not without its opponents. William Bell, executive director of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, said that the organization opposes the bill.

“First, there are problems with the language, especially sections that indicate that a person can be charged for having knowledge of horse slaughter or transport to slaughter,” Bell said. “Also, the legislation does not offer any solutions for horses that are freezing or starving to death because their owners can't take care of them or for the (horse) rescues that are full.”

LD 1286 is in the Maine House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry for consideration. A public committee hearing on the bill took place on April 30. The legislation remains pending.

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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