House approved horsemeat
Conroe Courier
By: Heath Hixson, Courier staff May 19, 2003
Two Texas slaughterhouses that provide the horse steaks some Europeans call "health food" and Japanese consumers consider a delicacy are now fighting to keep their doors open.
A legislative plan recently approved by the Texas House that now awaits consideration in the Senate, would clarify state law to allow horsemeat intended for human consumption outside of the United States to be sold in the Lone Star state.

The proposal likely would help the slaughterhouses stay in business.

The measure is meeting tough resistance by horse lovers who argue slaughtering horses to whet the appetite of foreign consumers is an inhumane way to treat animals that are revered and celebrated for their roles in U.S. history.

Slaughterhouse officials see it differently, and maintain the meat sold in foreign markets is no different than slaughtering a cow for barbecue loved by Texans.

"The legislation permits them to do exactly what they do; they sell all of their meat for human consumption out of the United States," said David Broiles, lawyer for the slaughterhouses.

Dallas Crown of Fort Worth and Beltex in Kaufman currently process horsemeat for human consumption sold to buyers in Europe and Japan. They also produce carnivore food for large zoo animals, such as tigers and lions.

"It is not against the law to eat horsemeat anywhere in the United States as far as I am aware," Broiles said. "The only thing that is illegal is to sell it for human consumption."

Currently, the sale of such meat for human consumption is illegal in Texas, due to a little-known state law that was approved decades ago. Discovery of the policy prompted moves in recent years to stop the horse slaughtering to feed foreign consumers.
The businesses have remained open thanks to successful legal challenges to the state law. They recently won an injunction against the enforcement of the law. The policy was repealed years ago, just never taken off the books, Broiles said.

Nonetheless, the proposal would clarify the state statute and allow the businesses to continue to make horsemeat for humans, but only if it is sold to foreign consumers.

Animal welfare groups, such as Habitat for Horses, vehemently oppose the move. The groups argue horses should not be sold as human food, and allowing the slaughtering of the large animals in the United States is akin to going to India and allowing the killing of cows for human food. In that country, certain religions see the cow as a holy animal.

Jerry Finch, Habitat for Horses president, said horses are a symbol of the United States, especially the West, and do not deserve that fate.

"Our basic feeling is that horses are not food products in their country," Finch said. "We see horses entirely different than cows, pigs, or chickens ... we do not see any reason to slaughter horses, it is just a very inhumane way for these (horses) to die."
State Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who voted for the measure in the House, said the proposal is not so much about allowing the horse slaughtering, but rather a proper way to dispose of them.

"It was favored by the veterinarians," Eissler said. "It is not a wholesale slaughter of horses, it is a humane way to dispose of horses that are old."

Finch balks at this view, and said more than 42,000 horses were slaughtered last year in Texas for human consumption. He estimated 90 percent of the horses killed were in good health.

Lawmakers argue the slaughterhouses provide jobs in the areas that they operate, and the matter is a question of international free trade. Federal laws allow the sale of the meat to other nations.

State Rep. Ruben Hope, R-Conroe, also voted to approve the plan in the House. State Rep. Dan Ellis, D-Livingston, voted against it.

In the Senate, state Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, has signed on to the proposal as a cosponsor. He was unavailable for comment. The Senate Natural Resources Committee, of which he is a member, could consider the measure as early as Tuesday.
Readers' Comments  Name: Mary Nash
Date: May, 24 2003
Hurrah to The Courier for your horsemeat article. The 40 acre farm next to the Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant in Kaufman has been in my family for 150 years. I've seen the horses arrive in double decker cattle haulers. They are not old or crippled. One Dallas Crown employee told my neighbor that their biggest customer is Disney World for their wild animals. That's a lie. They've told people in Kaufman that the horses are lame. That's a lie. It's a $40 million a year business, and they sell the meat for $15 a pound in Europe. I have a list of the 12 killer-buyers who furnish horses to Dallas Crown. According to some horse traders who frequent auctions, the killer-buyers must fill "quotas" in order to get good price per pound at the slaughter plants. So if it's near the end of the month and a killer-buyer is 5 horses short on his quota, do you think he cares if someone brings him stolen horses?
 Name: Betty Killbuck
Date: May, 20 2003
People in some countries eat dogs and cats. Will we eventually begin to do this because other people do or keep a certain amount of their meat on hand for foreign visitors? I hope not!
 Name: M Higgins
Date: May, 19 2003
I agree with the animal welfare faction. I have long thought it inhumane to slaughter these animals who have been a part of our everyday life as families and played such an important part in our United States history. As to our elected officials who voted to take the law prohibiting this horrible act, shame on you! Is there nothing people will not be permitted to do to make a buck, no matter how immoral? I am also interested in how horses can be slaughtered for human consumption in this country when every product I use for the health and well being of my horses clearly states on the packaging,"not to be used on horses intended for human consumption"? That goes from fly spray to repell the insects to every injectable medication and immunization that I am aware of. Is it OK to also poison other countries populations and now even our own? In my opinion, these slaughter houses need to be shut down. The stories of torture and inhumane conditions in these places should have been enough to shut them down long before this. Not just in Texas, but in every state of the union. If Japanese and Frenchmen wish to eat horse meat (God forbid!), let them grow their own horses, and slaughter them themselves. There are some things that are just wrong and need to be accepted as such.
 Name: Nikky Mullens
Date: May, 19 2003
Well of course the horses were in good health! They can't slaughter sick animals to sell for food. I for one will not be purchasing any horse meat, in a restaurant or otherwise. Anyone else agree??