House OKs 'stable to table' bill

2 firms get approval to keep butchering horses for export

04/24/2003

By GEORGE KUEMPEL / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN A bill that would allow two North Texas companies to continue butchering horses for human consumption overseas was tentatively approved Wednesday by the House amid some bad puns.

"Shouldn't this bill be titled 'from stable to table?' " asked Rep. Fred Brown, R-College Station.

But it was no joking matter to the companies in Tarrant and Kaufman counties that have been killing horses and shipping the meat to markets in France and other countries since the late 1940s.

It has long been illegal in Texas to sell horse meat for human consumption in the United States, and former state Attorney General John Cornyn ruled before leaving office that the ban also applied to horse meat being shipped overseas.

The companies Dallas Crown in Kaufman County and Fort Worth competitor Beltex Corp. are thought to be the only ones in the United States that slaughter horses. The companies estimate 800 to 900 horses a week are slaughtered for the palates of Europe and Asia and the zoos of America.

The bill by Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, would put the issue to rest by legalizing the sale of horse meat for table use in other countries.

As a concession to horse lovers, she included a provision requiring livestock sales companies to post a notice in a prominent location saying that horses being sold could end up on some foreigner's dinner table.

Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, tried to scuttle the measure by tacking on an amendment allowing only those horses too old or sick for riding, working or breeding to go to slaughter.

"We don't raise horses to be consumed any more than we raise dogs to be consumed," he said.

Mr. Goodman's amendment was quickly scuttled after the bill's supporters noted that the only horses it would have allowed to be slaughtered were unfit for human consumption.

E-mail gkuempel@dallasnews.com