Montana Lawmakers Ponder Slaughter Plant Legislation

Legislators in Montana are considering a proposed measure to encourage private investor horse slaughter plant development in that state. The bill's author says the measure is intended to both create jobs in Montana, and address the state's economy-driven unwanted horse problem.

Sponsored by Rep. Edward B. Butcher, HB 418 prohibits state courts from granting injunctions designed to stop or delay construction of horse slaughter or processing facilities based on permit or licensing challenges or on environmental grounds. The measure, now before the state's House Agriculture Committee, also requires individuals or groups challenging building permits to submit a surety bond representing 20% of the value of the facility's estimated building costs. The bill awards attorney and court fees to plaintiffs in cases District Courts deem harassing or without merit.

"Basically, it says the state is authorizing that a horse slaughter plant can come in," Butcher said.

Montana's proximity to the Canadian border makes the state an attractive site for Canadian plant operators looking to expand, Butcher said. Meat would be shipped directly from Montana international airports to offshore markets.

In 2007 state actions brought about the closure of processing plants in Texas and Illinois that were the only facilities in the United States processing horses for human consumption. Currently, horses are shipped to facilities in Mexico and Canada for processing for human consumption in Europe and Asia.

Montana legislators are not the only ones pondering plant development legislation. Last week members of North Dakota's House Agriculture Committee approved HB 1496, a bill seeking $75,000 from the state agriculture department's research fund to study whether current North Dakota law supports processing plant development. The North Dakota House is set to vote on the measure this week.

"We're an agricultural state with not a lot of economic development opportunities," said bill co-sponsor Sen. Joe Miller. "So far, the legislature has been very positive. So have the people I've been talking with."

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.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More