Posted on Fri, Jul. 21, 2006
Posted on Fri, Jul. 21, 2006
WASHINGTON - Texas oil tycoon Boone Pickens is galloping into a congressional fight to end the slaughter of horses for consumption overseas.
Pickens, founder of BP Capital and Mesa Petroleum, issued a news release Friday saying he was launching an attack against "foreign-owned horse killing plants."
He called horse slaughter "America's dirty little secret."
Two of the nation's three horse slaughter plants are in Texas and one is in Illinois. Most of the meat from the slaughtered horses is shipped overseas where it is sold as a delicacy.
"The brutal slaughter of horses for consumption by wealthy diners in Europe and Japan cuts against our moral and cultural fiber - it's just plain un-American," Pickens said in the news release.
House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday the House will vote when it returns from its summer recess in September on a bill seeking to end horse slaughter for human consumption by outlawing the transport and sale of horses for slaughter.
Pickens will testify at a hearing on the bill Tuesday before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Fort Worth chairs the full committee.
The bill is sponsored by Reps. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., John Spratt, D-S.C. and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. Similar legislation is being sponsored in the Senate by John Ensign, R-Nev., who is a veterinarian, and Mary Landrieu, D-La.
"T. Boone Pickens ... appears to be a nontraditional ally, and those are the best allies to have in a fight on animal welfare," said Wayne Pacelli, Humane Society of the United States president. "I think his emergence on this issue will cause people to do a double take and will attract many more supporters to our cause."
Pickens is a top contributor to Republicans, most recently providing money for Republican congressional races, Bush's 2004 inauguration and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that campaigned against presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.
His support for the bill sets up a duel with another Texan, former Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm, who lobbies for the plants and Livestock Marketing Association.
"One of the big issues on this is private property rights. T.Boone has been a big advocate for private property rights for land he's purchased," Stenholm said. He said he supports horse owners who don't want to slaughter their horses, but those who do have a constitutional right to do so because the horse is private property.
Congress voted overwhelmingly for legislation eliminating money in the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget this year for salaries and expenses for horse meat inspectors. But USDA worked with the plants to establish a fee system for inspections.
The plants are Beltex Corp. of Fort Worth; Dallas Crown Inc., based in Kaufman, Texas; and Cavel International Inc. in DeKalb, Ill.
The Kaufman zoning board voted in May to order the Dallas Crown plant to close because of concerns about health and safety. That decision is being appealed.
Pickens has been listed by Forbes as one of its 400 richest Americans. His news release said he and his wife, Madeleine, are animal lovers and charted a jet to airlift cats and dogs stranded by Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast last summer.
The House bill is H.R. 503 and the Senate bill is S1915.