Airlines won't carry meat, plants' status hazy after ban upheld
A federal court decision that upheld a
"My information now is that the plants are not processing at the moment," industry lobbyist Charles Stenholm said at 4:30 p.m. Thursday about the Beltex plant in Fort Worth and Dallas Crown in Kaufman. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you can't ship the meat, you can't process it."
But 20 minutes later, Dallas Crown operator Christopher Soenen said the Kaufman plant was still operating. Dallas Crown attorney Mark Calabria then clarified, saying production would probably be reduced temporarily as the plant processes for pet food and zoo food only.
It was just the latest example of how quickly reports about the industry were changing.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines said early Thursday afternoon that
they had suspended transport of horse meat to overseas markets – mainly
"We're not confident that it is legal to ship horse meat out of the state of Texas, so we're not accepting shipment," American spokesman Tim Wagner said.
Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said the airline "has suspended shipment of this cargo, based on the recent ruling."
'A comfort level'
Asked whether the plants would try to persuade the airlines to change their minds or try to arrange shipment with other airlines, Mr. Stenholm said, "It is my belief that the airlines will soon reach a comfort level."
He said any disruption at the plants would be brief.
"I don't have a single doubt in my mind that the plants will be up and operating soon, whether that's tomorrow or Monday," he said, "and they will keep operating throughout the political and legal battles they're in."
David Broiles, an attorney for the two
Mr. Broiles acknowledged that it was rare for the full court to overturn one of its panels' decisions. But if his request fails, he said, he will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Ann Diamond, a
Mr. Stenholm, a former West Texas congressman, said the airlines were
influenced by anti-slaughter groups such as the Humane Society of the
"A lot of the folks on the other side have managed to stir up a lot of questions," he said. "Certainly, American Airlines did not want to do anything that was illegal. They were being told, by calls flooding into their office, that it was illegal to ship. That's inaccurate information."
Mr. Wagner said American did not base its decision on phone calls. "We have to make our decision based on our understanding of the court case," he said, "not someone else's interpretation."
Mr. Stenholm said that the appeals court decision created uncertainty in every business, from horse auctions to the airlines, but that he believes Mr. Broiles' decision to fight to the Supreme Court if necessary would stabilize the horse industry.
"It's just a matter of hours before things are back to normal," he said.
Industry spokesman David Sheon agreed. "I think it would be more fair to describe that as a hiccup, not a major disruption," he said.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of
"The court's decision was unambiguous, and the judges stated that horse
slaughter is illegal in
Beltex employs about 90 people and has annual
sales of $35 million, according to its most recent report. Dallas Crown employs
about 40 workers and has annual sales of about $8.8 million. Both are
foreign-owned. The only other
Even if horse meat for humans is declared legal in
Congress is considering a nationwide ban on horse slaughter. But, in what Mr. Sheon called a "rare, if not unprecedented move," the Republican and Democratic heads of two committees in the House – Agriculture, and Energy and Commerce – issued a bipartisan letter Thursday urging fellow members not to vote for a ban.