With legislation that would allow the slaughter of horses in Oklahoma heading down the stretch, opponents mounted up last-minute efforts Sunday to rein in the legislation's momentum.
Speakers criticized the legislation during a news conference at a horse ranch in northeastern Oklahoma City and released poll results showing a majority of Oklahomans oppose the two measures that would overturn a 50-year ban on horse slaughter.
The Senate is expected to vote early this week on House Bill 1999, which would allow horse slaughter but would continue the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in the state.
A House of Representatives committee is scheduled Wednesday to hear Senate Bill 375, which would revoke the state's 1963 law banning the sale of horse meat and would end the prohibition on horse slaughtering or the sale of horse meat.
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said he expects HB 1999 will win Senate approval.
“If you fully understand what they're doing, it's humane, it's better off for the horses,” Bingman said last week.
If it passes without any amendments being added, it would go the governor for her consideration.
Gov. Mary Fallin has a policy of not commenting on whether she will support legislation until she has an opportunity to review the final version.
Paula Bacon, who served as mayor of Kaufman, Texas, when a horse processing plant was operating in her community, talked Sunday about the environmental dangers and the stigma that Oklahoma would face if a similar plant operated in the state.
She said the city filed legal action against the operators of the plant; still, she said the plant caused environmental and economic havoc in her community until it closed in 2007.
“It stigmatizes your community,” she said. “Good development does not want to come there.
“You would be better served to have a lead-smeltering plant and sexually oriented businesses all up and down your main drag than to have a horse slaughter plant in your community,” Bacon said.
John Murrell, a thoroughbred horse owner and breeder and a former board member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, talked of the inhumane treatment horses face being taken to processing plants and the cruel fate that awaits them when they arrive.
“Our horses deserve a much kinder end to their life … than to be sent to a horrific, terrible scary death at a slaughterhouse,” said Murrell, of Dallas.
“We as Americans do not raise horses for food. The slaughter process is cruel and inhumane. From the time the horses arrive at the livestock auction and during their transport to slaughter, which in many cases can be horrific and lengthy, the horses endure unspeakable atrocities, including multiple injuries.”
Offering an option
Mike Spradling, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said a processing plant is an alternative for horse owners who can't afford them and are now turning them out on roads, abandoning them on other people's pastures or simply allowing them to starve.
Contacted Sunday, Spradling said a processing plant is only an option for horse owners.
He said he expected about one third of Oklahoma horse owners would sell their unwanted horses to the plant.
“This is a private property rights issue,” said Spradling, of Tulsa. “Those are our animals.
“We are in the business of producing food and fiber,” Spradling said. “Is it better just to dispose of the animal, euthanize it and put it in a hole … or if there is an option for it ... to go to humans?
Poll finds voter opposition
to horse slaughter proposal
Bill Shapard, chief executive officer of Sooner