Bills that would allow the slaughter of horses but continue the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in Oklahoma are galloping through the Legislature.
Measures won easy approval Wednesday in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Senate Bill 375, by Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, passed 38-6. House Bill 1999, by Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, won approval 82-14. SB 375 goes to the House and HB 1999 goes to the Senate.
SB 375 would revoke the state's 1963 law banning the sale of horse meat, which would end the prohibition on horse slaughtering or the sale of horse meat. HB 1999 would allow horse slaughter but would continue the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in the state.
“Rep. McNiel, let me get this straight now — we're going to take horses and grind them up and eat them?” asked Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, the lone House member to debate against HB 1999.
“No, sir,” McNiel replied. “We're going to take horses and process them and send them to a market that wants them, which can be overseas. We will not eat them in Oklahoma or the United States.”
Cynthia Armstrong, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said after the votes that lawmakers were racing the measures through before public opposition could mount.
McNiel said since domestic horse slaughter plants ceased operations in 2006, more horse owners who can't afford their aging horses are turning them out on roads, abandoning them on other people's pastures or simply allowing them to starve. Congress last year restored funding for U.S. inspectors to oversee horse slaughter, allowing the way for slaughter and processing to resume.
Horses are being transported now to Mexico, where they face a violent death, said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. Armes, who complained about out-of-state groups pressuring lawmakers to vote against the bill, said workers slaughter horses in Mexico by cutting their spinal cord several times.
“They don't shock them, they don't put a bullet through their brain,” he said. “Then they open the box and out stumbles that horse and that horse falls in a heap on the ground. Is that humane?
“The do-gooders in this world that have tried to make it better for these beautiful horses that we all love … have done something very bad by trying to do good,” Armes said. “They have pushed horse slaughter to Mexico.”
Armstrong said horse meat is not safe for human consumption, saying horses receive a long list of medications and other substances that are considered toxic. She also said the method in which horses were killed in the three American plants for slaughter was not humane.
McNiel said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal rights organization, reversed its opposition to horse slaughter plants in the United States in 2011, saying domestic horse slaughter facilities are preferable to shipping horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
Dank, who at one time raised race horses, said a horse slaughter plant in Oklahoma would send a wrong message about the state.
“I don't think it sends the right message as far our economic development,” he said. “I don't want people to think of Oklahoma as the place where you slaughter your horses.”