A bill that would allow horse slaughter in Oklahoma is in the hands of Gov. Mary Fallin, who is leaning toward signing it.
Even if House Bill 1999 is signed into law, it could be three years before a horse processing plant could be operating in the state, said Sen. Eddie Fields, the Senate sponsor of the measure.
The state Senate on Tuesday voted 32-14 to pass HB 1999, which would allow horse slaughter but would continue the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in the state. Seven of the 12 Senate Democrats voted for it; five voted against. Nine of the 36 Republicans voted against it; two GOP senators didn't vote.
Gov. Mary Fallin indicated earlier she would sign the bill, which would overturn a 50-year-old ban on horse slaughter.
A similar bill, Senate Bill 375, was scheduled to be heard Wednesday by a House of Representatives committee, but it has been taken off the agenda apparently to see whether Fallin signs HB 1999. If she does, there would be little reason to proceed with the Senate bill.
Opponents vowed to continue efforts to prevent a slaughter plant from being built Oklahoma.
“The battle has just begun,” said John Murrell, of Dallas, a thoroughbred horse owner and breeder and a former board member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. “This is just a temporary setback.
“It's a terrible, sad day for Oklahoma,” said Murrell, who worked to get the two horse slaughter plants in Texas closed several years ago. A third plant was closed by court order in 2007 in Illinois.
If HB 1999 is signed into law, prohibitions against horse slaughter would remain in three states: California, Texas and Illinois.
Senators discussed and debated HB 1999 for about 45 minutes.
Sens. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, and Constance Johnson, D-Forest Park, were among those who spoke against the measure, questioning the safety of horse meat that would be slaughtered in Oklahoma and sold for consumption in other countries.
“Why is it OK for us to approve meat that has been contaminated with injections?” she asked, saying she was especially concerned about children eating tainted meat. “I'm just encouraging us to think this thing through better.”