Horse Slaughter in North Texas

Mar 22, 2004 9:20 pm US/Central

There are more than 5-million horses in the United States. more than 600-thousand in Texas alone.

Some are ridden. Some are raced.

And some end up here.

There are only two places in the U-S where horses are slaughtered -- and both are in North Texas: Bel Tex in Fort Worth...And Dallas Crown in Kaufman.

Last year 51,000 horses were killed at these two plants.

Horses have been trucked into Kaufman's Dallas Crown Slaughter plant. Most of them will be killed before the day is out. And the meat then will be transported by air to European tables.

Among the trendy, expensive shops of Paris' Left Bank, you'll find Boucherie Claude Sauvage...Claude Sauvage's Butcher Shop.

CBs 11 asked him if he sold horsemeat and did he have many clients?

"Yes. It gives you a lot of energy. And it's low in fat and cholesterol," said Claude Sauvage.

"It is tastier than beef...and I eat it raw," said Maryvonne Spain.

"It's more tender and more sweet than the beef meat," Laurence Carrier said.

Some like it ground.... others prefer steak or roasts. The filets sell for about a dollar-seventy a pound in U.S. Dollars. Last year the French consumed 10 tons of horsemeat.

“There is so much mistreatment involved in the culture of horse slaughter," said Mary Nash.

Kaufman native Mary Nash owns the property next to the Dallas Crown slaughterhouse.

"So what if the horse suffers a little. He's gonna be dead soon. Who cares? He won't remember it. That's their attitude," she said.

Nash and Kaufman Mayor Paula Bacon want Dallas Crown shut down. The mayor says it's choking the sewer system.

And there was an accident involving one of its waste trucks..

“At the end of September Dallas Crown spilled a tremendous amount of blood," Paula Bacon said. "And it was absolutely horrific. There was blood everywhere. The smell would make your skin crawl."

And it may be illegal.

Two years ago then-Attorney General John Cornyn issued an opinion that the Texas Agriculture Code bans live horse slaughter for human consumption.

So why are they still in business?

Fort Worth Attorney John Linebarger represents the slaughter houses.

"Nobody really paid much attention to that statute, because states don't have the right to regulate interstate or foreign commerce," Linebarger said. "And we filed an injunctive suit to prohibit the enforcement of the statute."

Dub Anderson and his son Bill are horse vets in Frisco.

"There's no good way to handle the situation because we have so many horses that are either deserted or the people can't afford to keep them," Dub Anderson said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association supports horse slaughter. Without it, they say veterinarians would be saddled with euthanizing an unmanageable number of horses.

"If we didn't allow it, we would have animals abandoned in parks, and you know, state parks and properties and starving," Bill Anderson said.

The horses we saw trucked into Dallas Crown clearly didn't appear to be starving. It was also clear the people who run the slaughter house didn't want us taking pictures.

So where do the horses come from? Many are bought at auctions by so-called killer buyers who reportedly get up to 600-dollars a head. But it could soon become much more profitable because the fear of mad cow disease is driving up the price of horsemeat.

That also means an increase in horse thieves. The Texas and Southwestern Cattleraisers Association has inspectors at each plant checking brands and implanted microchips.

Those who defend the plants say it's a cultural thing. Hindus don't eat beef, Jews and Muslims don't eat pork and Americans don't eat horse meat. And they say if we saw where our beefsteaks and hamburger really come from.

"It would be much different than going to Tom Thumb or Safeway and looking at packaged beef," Linebarger said.

But that doesn't sway Mary Nash and Paula Bacon at all....

"It's not over until I say it's over. We're never giving up," Bacon said.

So where do things stand? In April of last year, Federal Judge Terry Means issued a temporary order allowing the slaughterhouses to stay in operation pending a ruling from his court.

Eleven months later, both sides are still awaiting Judge Means' ruling on the matter...and the slaughterhouses continue to kill on average some 45-hundred horses a month.