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Slaughterhouse opponents argue for options

Protesters criticized proposals in the Oklahoma Legislature to allow horses to be slaughtered in the state, several years after the last U.S. slaughterhouses closed.
by William Crum Published: March 4, 2013

She said her young filly, Penny, fell three years ago while jumping a fence and broke her shoulder. Hayes' vet put the animal down.

“It broke my heart, but he took good care of her,” she said.

Bill's author reacts

State Rep. Skye McNiel, a horsewoman like Hayes, said she wrote the bill lifting the ban on slaughterhouses in Oklahoma because of the inhumane conditions in which horses are trucked to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered.

There are an estimated 21,000 horses per year in Oklahoma — and 150,000 to 160,000 nationwide — that meet that fate, she said.

“Nobody's talking about those horses,” said McNiel, a Republican from Bristow whose two older daughters, ages 10 and 7, have their own horses.

McNiel said federally supervised slaughterhouses would meet acceptable standards for treatment of the animals.

Critics say 80 percent of Oklahomans oppose slaughterhouses.

But McNiel said the response depends on the question, and whether people were told about the inhumane treatment of horses trucked out of the country for slaughter or about horses abandoned to starve on the range.

Federal agency

The Bureau of Land Management spent nearly $11 million last year keeping wild horses rounded up from Western rangelands on pastures in Oklahoma, said Paul McGuire, a spokesman attending the meeting of the Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board this week in Oklahoma City.

The bureau doesn't sell horses for slaughter or to known “kill buyers,” he said.

A January 2013 roster lists 14 pasture lands — known as “holding facilities” to the bureau — in Oklahoma for wild horses.

McGuire said the bureau manages 250 million acres of federal lands.

The law requires that bureau land be shared, with uses as varied as wild horse range and livestock grazing, energy development and scenic vistas.

On Jan. 29, there were 21,439 wild horses being kept on the Oklahoma pasturelands and another 554 at a Bureau of Land Management facility in Pauls Valley.

About 40,000 mustangs and burros range across 26.9 million acres of bureau land in the West, McGuire said. That's about 12,000 more than the land can adequately support, he said.

by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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