Amended bill opens door for horsemeat sales

12:58 PM CDT on Friday, May 11, 2007

By EMILY RAMSHAW and JIM GETZ / The Dallas Morning News,

It was supposed to be a simple housekeeping bill for the Texas Animal 
Health Commission. But a bill approved this week by the Senate turned 
into something far different – a measure authorizing the sale of 
horsemeat in the state.

The original bill was an offshoot of a periodic review of the 
that, among other administrative changes, clarified how to handle 
infectious diseases and animal carcasses.

But a change offered by Sen. Glenn Hegar to the bill opens the door for 
the sale of horsemeat for human consumption as long as animals have 
“tested by the commission.”

Animal rights advocates call it a broad interpretation that flew in 
under everyone’s nose and threatens years of work to end horse 

"Texas has a good, strong law against slaughter that reflects the 
attitudes of the people of the state," said Ed Sayres, president and 
of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "We 
must not let a measure that did not even go up for debate overturn what 
the people find inhumane and unacceptable."

Mr. Hegar, R-Katy, said that in some cases, horse slaughter is the best 
option – particularly when the alternatives are leaving a horse 
at pasture, or worse, shipping the animal to Mexico under horrific 

“I understand the emotions of this issue,” he said. “But 
... we turn a blind eye and assume since there’s not horse 
that means the animal will be treated humanely and justly.”

Mr. Hegar advertised his amendment as one to test animals for disease 
and help authorities catch animal thieves. The amendment language, 
however, states clearly that the Texas Agriculture Code’s ban on the 
sale of horsemeat for human consumption wouldn't apply to animals 
by the commission.

It’s unclear whether his colleagues understood or even cared – but 
bill passed unanimously after no debate. Animal advocates in the House 
say there's no way they'll vote for the bill without stripping that 

Dallas attorney Robert "Skip" Trimble, a member of the Texas Humane 
Legislative Network, called the amendment an "end run" around the usual 
political process. Two bills originally introduced this session to 
legalize horsemeat for human consumption are dead, he said.

"It’s real clear that Texas voters don’t want horse slaughter,” 
he said, 
“so they’ll never be able to pass it in a traditional way."

Although the amendment was slipped in with little notice Wednesday 
night, it quickly caught the attention of animal protection groups all 
the way to Washington, who urged the Texas House to reject the 
on the Senate bill.

"We hope that Texas legislators oppose this amendment or any other 
attempt to legalize horse slaughter in the State of Texas," said Chris 
Heyde, deputy legislative director of the Society for Animal Protective 
Legislation (SAPL). "Protecting our horses from slaughter is a priority 
for Texans and all Americans."

Horse slaughter, particularly the Dallas Crown Inc. plant in Kaufman, 
has come under attack at the federal, state and local level over the 
past two years.

The biggest blow came in January, when a three-judge panel of the 5th 
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a 1949 state law banning 
horsemeat still applied. That decision overturned a lower court ruling 
and opened the way for district attorneys to prosecute the plants if 
they continued to operate. The full appeals court declined to rehear 
case. Lawyers have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Representatives of the slaughter industry have said a total shutdown of 
plants will mean a glut of unwanted horses in the United States, 
affecting prices throughout the entire horse industry, including 
breeders and auction barns. They have said horses now will be taken for 
slaughter to Canada or Mexico, where conditions and transport are less 

At the local level, Kaufman's Board of Zoning Adjustment has declared 
Dallas Crown a public health nuisance. The city also has sued to get 
tens of thousands of dollars in fines it says it is owed for Dallas 
Crown wastewater violations that strained the city's treatment plant. 
All of those allegations are tied up in local courts.