Posted on Fri, Oct. 17, 2003

Group wants to shut down businesses in Fort Worth, Kaufman that slaughter horses

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Sherillyn Flick of Flower Mound bought M'Pulse at an auction so the animal wouldn't be sold to a slaughterhouse.

M'Pulse was purchased for $190. Flick says healthy horses are often bought at auctions and then sold to a slaughterhouse. The meat is exported to Europe for human consumption.

A national movement to close two horse slaughterhouses in Texas is gaining momentum locally.

Sherillyn Flick, past president of the Flower Mound Republican Club, recently launched Just Say Whoa to Horse Slaughter. The organization is using its Web site to pressure federal lawmakers to pass a bill that would close Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth and Dallas Crown in Kaufman -- the only two horse-slaughter plants in the United States.

"I can't get them shut down by calling them," Flick said. "I can get them shut down through legislation. That's what I'm concentrating on."

Beltex Corp. and Dallas Crown officials could not be reached to comment.

But Fort Worth attorney David Broiles, who is representing the companies in a federal lawsuit, said the businesses are concerned about what they call inaccurate statements by such advocacy groups. For example, the slaughterhouses don't claim that they kill only old, sick and injured horses.

"Some of them are healthy horses," Broiles said. "But they are horses that nobody wants. They are the cheapest horses at the auction."

Independent buyers purchase the horses at auctions and sell them to the slaughterhouses. Last year, Beltex killed 25,000 horses and Dallas Crown killed about 17,000, Broiles said. The plants sell horse meat for human consumption in Europe.

A third slaughterhouse in Illinois that burned a few years ago is being rebuilt.

The companies and other groups, including nutritionists for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, say that without the regulated plants, horses would go to foreign slaughterhouses with inhumane conditions.

But across the United States, groups are trying to close the plants. In addition to the federal bill, an Illinois state legislator filed a bill to ban horse slaughter in his state. And Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Curry has pursued a federal lawsuit that says a 1949 law prohibits horse slaughter.

A federal judge ruled in April that Beltex can operate until the case challenging its legality is decided.

Flick said she got involved because healthy animals were being slaughtered. Two weeks ago, she attended a Stephenville auction and returned with M'Pulse, a year-old colt she bought for $190. She said that until she spoke up, the only person bidding on the animal would have sold him to a slaughterhouse.

"It's something that I really feel like a lot of people don't want to hear about," she said. "The more you find out about the slaughter industry, the more uncomfortable it gets."

Flick said she learned about the slaughterhouses after stumbling onto the Web site of Mary Nash, a Kaufman resident who owns property next to Dallas Crown. Nash said the Web site has generated interest throughout the country.

Flick called the Web site "a real eye-opener."

"Quite frankly, I felt embarrassed that I had owned horses all my life and I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and yet I had no idea that two slaughterhouses existed out here," she said.

She launched her Web site Sept. 17 to help spread the word. Flick said the site has generated comments from more than 100 people.

The site prompts readers to contact their legislators and ask them to support or co-sponsor HR 857, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. It would ban killing horses to make meat for human consumption.

The bill has 95 co-sponsors. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Highland Village, who represents the district where Flick lives, told constituents in a letter that he would support the bill if it were debated by the full House.

A bill in the Texas Legislature that would have protected the slaughterhouses failed in the last regular session.

Kelly Melhart, (817) 685-3854

© 2003 Star Telegram and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.