Sen. Mark Allen, of Spiro, sponsor of a bill to allow horse slaughtering to resume in Oklahoma, laid it on the line at a rally for advocates of the legislation: “If you're an Oklahoman and have a concern, call our office. If you're out of state, we don't need to talk to you.”
The warning to outsiders followed the March 4 anti-slaughter rally in downtown Oklahoma City organized by national animal rights groups and what slaughter advocates said was harassment of legislators by out-of-state callers.
But out-of-state groups, including one led by wealthy Indiana businessman Forrest Lucas, are active on the pro-slaughter side as well, spending thousands of dollars on radio ads and helping organize lobbying efforts on behalf of the legislation.
Protect the Harvest, of Davenport, Iowa, has 60-second radio spots favoring slaughter running on stations across Oklahoma, calling on Oklahomans to contact their legislators and the governor.
The ads accuse radicals of spreading lies about Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. The Humane Society of the United States is spending millions to put agriculture out of business, they say.
A group started by a Hermiston, Ore., horse trainer sent emails urging “everyone within striking distance” to show up at the state Capitol for Wednesday's rally supporting the legislation.
“Anytime you energize the agricultural, rural grassroots, you have an overwhelming response,” said Erik Helland, a former Iowa state representative who grew up on a seventh-generation Iowa family farm and is a founding board member of Protect the Harvest.
Oklahoma horses are among an estimated 160,000 U.S. horses slaughtered for meat in Mexico and Canada each year. Much of that horse meat winds up in Europe and Asia.
The last of three U.S. horse slaughterhouses, in Texas and Illinois, closed in 2007 — in Texas because of an appeals court ruling on a 1949 state law, and in Illinois after slaughter was outlawed there, according to an analysis prepared by the Oklahoma Commerce Department.
Congress had withdrawn funding for federal horse processing inspections in 2005.
Oklahoma has prohibited the sale of horse meat since 1963. Two bills in the Legislature, SB 375 and HB 1999, would allow slaughter of horses to resume but would prohibit sale of horse meat for consumption in Oklahoma.
Dave Duquette, 47, trains reining and reined cow horses in Oregon, where he went into the business in his 20s after serving in the Marines.
He said he started United Horsemen because he felt there was not a voice for his interests in “all the major horse groups that claimed to be protecting us.”