E.J. Snider raises draft horses, bred for heavy lifting around the farm, and cares deeply about their welfare, from birth to death.
The Rogers County cattleman joined about 100 others from around rural Oklahoma on Wednesday at the state Capitol to say bills allowing horse slaughtering to resume in Oklahoma would benefit horses and horse owners.
“We support these bills because there needs to be a reasonable, humane way to care for aging and disabled horses,” said Snider, whose gentle Belgians pull wagons in parades and for events including birthday parties and weddings.
Led by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, a coalition of agriculture and wildlife groups sponsored a news conference and day of lobbying on behalf of two bills, SB375 and HB1999. They would end a 50-year-old prohibition on slaughtering horses in Oklahoma.
The bills would give horse owners options, protect private property rights, and assure rural Oklahomans that they can assert their know-how in deciding rural issues, advocates said.
“It is our responsibility to take care of our horses,” said Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, author of one of the bills. “It is not a hobby for us.”
Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers and Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union, said options were limited for horse owners who can no longer care for aging or unwanted animals.
A federal study showed a 60 percent increase in incidents of starved or neglected horses after Congress withdrew funding for federal horse slaughter inspections in 2006, he said.
The last U.S. horse processing plants closed not long after inspections ended.
A line in the sand
An estimated 160,000 U.S. horses, including 21,000 from Oklahoma, are trucked to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico each year.
A slaughterhouse proposed in Roswell, N.M., could be the first in the United States since Congress reauthorized inspections.