WASHINGTON (March 8, 2006) – The Humane Society of the United States filed an amicus brief today in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, asking the court to overturn a lower court decision striking down a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.

The criminal code of Texas has long prohibited the sale or possession of horse meat, but the law has never been enforced. In 2002, in response to citizen and local government concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the two horse slaughter plants operating in the state – Dallas Crown in Kaufman and Beltex in Fort Worth -- then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn issued a written opinion that the 1949 Texas law is still applicable and may be enforced.

In response, the Tarrant County District Attorney attempted to enforce the law, but last year a federal district court in Texas ruled that the law was repealed by another statute and preempted by federal law. The District Attorney has appealed that decision, and The HSUS has submitted briefing in support of the state’s position.

In today’s filing, The HSUS pointed out that the district court’s ruling not only misconstrues the applicable law, but it also jeopardizes the state’s authority to protect the health of its people and to legislate for the protection of animals.

“The people of Texas, not foreign corporations, should be able to decide whether they want horse slaughterhouses in their backyards,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of animal protection litigation for The HSUS. “Texas law prohibits the sale of horse meat for human food, and the state’s efforts to enforce that law should not be frustrated by the legal maneuvering of foreign corporations profiting from the slaughter and export of American horses to Europe.”

Horsemeat is not sold or consumed in the United States, yet an estimated 90,000 American horses are slaughtered in this country for food or shipped to Canada or Mexico for the same purpose every year. The meat from former racehorses, family ponies and other horses is frozen, packed and exported for human consumption in European countries such as France and Belgium that consider horsemeat a delicacy.

Last month, The HSUS and other groups filed a separate lawsuit after the USDA announced that it will allow three European-owned slaughterhouses located in Texas and Illinois to continue butchering tens of thousands of horses this year, even though Congress passed an amendment to the 2006 Appropriations Act to suspend the practice for 2006.

This coalition is also working actively for passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503 and S. 1915), which would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The measure is sponsored by U.S. Representatives John Sweeney (R-NY), John Spratt (D-SC), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and U.S. Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than 9.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS protects all animals through education, advocacy, litigation, investigation, legislation, and fieldwork. The non-profit organization is based in Washington, D.C. and has representatives across the country. On the web at