Oklahoma Bills would Facilitate Horse Processing

Horse processing for human consumption would again be legal in Oklahoma if a pair of bills currently pending in that state's legislature become law. Current Oklahoma law forbids horse processing and the sale of horsemeat for human consumption in that state.

Horse processing 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 in Illinois and Texas. Following the closure of domestic processing plants, U.S. horses have been shipped to Mexico or Canada for processing. Commercial horse slaughter in the United States became possible again in 2012 when Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed legislation that did not specifically deny the USDA the funding to carry out inspections at domestic horses processing plants. Since the ban was lifted, plant developments have been proposed in several states, however no horse processing plants are operating anywhere in the United States.

Some Oklahoma lawmakers have advocated for the resumption of horse processing in that state even before the federal funding ban was lifted. In 2010, Oklahoma legislators passed HCR 1045, a no-binding resolution asking the state's delegation in Washington, D.C. to oppose any federal legislation aimed at prohibiting the transport or processing of horses for human consumption.

Earlier this year, a pair of Oklahoma legislators introduced bills that would facilitate horse processing development in that state. 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 horsemeat processed in Oklahoma to be sold for export only to international markets.

Allen was unavailable for comment.

McNeil said that if passed, her bill would place Oklahoma in a position to compete for the attention of investors seeking a site for a horse plant development.

"We did have a group of investors looking for a site here, but they moved on," McNeil said. "This bill would allow a plant to be built here."

Equine advocate Jo Deibel, president and founder of Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in Glennville, Pa., believes that horse processing does not represent sound economic development for that state.

"(Horse processing) is economically devastating to the local community, providing very few jobs and zero economic boost," Deibel said.

Ultimately whether horse processing plant development will take place in the United States depends upon whether or not federal lawmakers continue to provide funds for USDA personnel to inspect domestic horsemeat plants. While no long term farm bill has been enacted, funding for USDA inspections at horse processing plants in the United States will be determined by how federal agencies will be funded during fiscal 2013. Those funding decisions must be determined by the end of March.

In the meantime both of the Oklahoma bill also remain 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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