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It wasn't until plant opponents discovered an apparently forgotten 1949 Texas law that banned the slaughter of horses for human consumption that things began to shift. The city sued the plant in federal court, ultimately prevailing after the Supreme Court declined to review a 2007 appeals court decision ordering Dallas Crown and Beltex, an unaffiliated horse slaughter plant in Fort Worth, to close.
State legislators are now mulling whether outlawing horse slaughter is such a good thing. The Senate Committee on Agriculture & Rural Affairs has been given an interim charge -- sort of like a committee's homework assignment for when the legislature's not in session -- to "review the impact of state laws relating to the closure of horse slaughter facilities across the United States" and "analyze the impact on the equine industry and agricultural sector of the Texas economy."
The committee had a hearing in July during which it took testimony from a half dozen experts and the public about the horse slaughter. Ken Hodges, an associate legislative director for the Farm Bureau, was one of the people who testified. The horse slaughter issue is a touchy subject and not one he's eager to talk about, but he does think it should be allowed.
Livestock producers tend to operate on a shoestring, he said, prone to the vagaries of weather and market. It's a living, but a tough one in which revenue and expenses are always neck-and-neck. The option to send a worn-out work horse to slaughter is the most cost effective option.
"We don't like mistreating animals, and this is not what this is about. We want there to be adequate, humane guildeines in place for the slaughter once an animal is deceased," Hodges said. At the same time "If it can be used as a protein source or a delicacy in some countries, we don't see why it shouldn't be."
Economically, it makes perfect sense. Americans don't eat horse meat, but people in Japan and some European countries do. Why not send them our used-up equines and make a couple of bucks? For most people stateside, of course, it's a moral and not an economic issue. We regard horses, whether the position is logically consistent or not, more as pets than as livestock and thus blanch at the thought of killing them for such a crass reason to make meat.