Montana Slaughter Law Could Face Challenges

A new Montana state law invites private investors to develop horse slaughter facilities in that state. But opponents say compliance and court challenges might discourage prospective investors from ever breaking ground on plant projects.

HB 418 insulates plant developers from permit and licensing challenges on environmental and other grounds, and awards attorney and court fees to plaintiffs in cases District Courts deem harassing or without merit. It automatically became law last Friday after Gov. Brian Schweitzer declined to sign or veto it 10 days after it reached his desk (read more).

Nancy Perry, vice president of Government Affairs for the Humane Society of the United States, said the legislation could be challenged because it removes Montana citizens' right to to sue plant developers in state courts.

There are also some concerns with food safety compliance issues. All meat processing plants in the United States are subject to USDA regulation and product inspection, said Amanda Eamich, spokesperson for the agency's Food Inspection Service. But congress previously stripped the USDA's funding for horse processing plant inspections.

"U.S. law prohibits the funding of inspectors for the regulation of horse slaughter," Eamich said. "Without the federal inspections, they couldn't get the meat out of state or out of the country."

HB 418 sponsor Rep. Ed Butcher argued that since meat processed in Montana would be destined for European markets, plant owners could employ European Union personnel to regulate the plants and conduct product inspections.

"Then inspection challenges would go to the world trade court," Butcher explained.

He also disagrees that the law is unconstitutional.

"Courts have the right to offer an opinion about legislation--they do not have the right to make law. That's the legislature's job," he said.

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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