Longview News-Journal, Longview, Texas
May 28, 2003

5-28, Local: Horse slaughter for consumption bill goes back to Senate changed


AUSTIN — A bill to kill horses for human consumption appeared dead in the Texas Senate until a House amendment on another bill spurred it forward Saturday.

The House amendment to Senate Bill 1413, originally proposed as a bill to eliminate outdated provisions or duplications in the state agriculture code, repealed the section of the code that outlaws horse slaughter for human consumption. The amendment, proposed Saturday and then successfully defended from a motion to reconsider, sends SB 1413 back to the Senate different from the Senate-approved original bill. But now it's more to the liking of supporters of horse slaughter for human consumption overseas.

House Bill 1324 won House approval on April 24, but its supporters appeared to have been defeated in the Senate where it languished in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Animal rights advocates who had flocked to a public hearing in March before the House Agriculture Committee were signalling an end to the proposed bill as late as last week.

The House bill legalized horse slaughter for human consumption in foreign countries by specifically outlawing it in the United States. It was filed by Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, whose district holds one of two Texas horse slaughter houses — the only other facility in America is in Fort Worth.

The two plants, owned by Belgian and French interests marketing horsemeat in those countries as well as in Germany and Japan, filed a federal lawsuit after then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn declared their operations illegal last summer.

In the Senate, a spokesman for the original author of SB 1413 said Tuesday that Sen. Bob Deuell did not appreciate his bill to clean up the ag code used as a back door for a House Bill that got stuck in a Senate committee.

"We filed a motion to not concur (with the House amendment) today," Deuell spokesman Don Forse said. "We are not going to put any horsemeat legislation in our bill."

Forse said Deuell is asking Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to order the formation of a conference committee of five senators and five representatives to work out the difference between the bill Deuell wrote and the one that returned from the House to the Senate. He added Deuell is not going to look favorably on Goodman's and Brown's use of horse slaughter for consumption in the United States as a bargaining chip to legalize its sale for consumption overseas.

"We're not going to recognize the horse amendments," he said.

With Brown's bill faltering in a Senate committee, she and Vernon Republican Rick Hardcastle led a charge Saturday for an amendment to SB 1413, legalizing horse slaughter for human consumption anywhere.

Hardcastle told fellow House members Saturday that he needed full decriminalization in the amendment as leverage in the Senate.

“We're not going to allow the horsemeat to be used for human consumption in the United States," Saturday's House transcript quotes Hardcastle as saying. "But we need to leave that amendment (legalizing the slaughterhouses) in the bill as it is so we can go to conference and fix it right, or so that we've got enough leverage to get Ms. Brown's bill voted on in the (Senate) committee."

Brown defended Hardcastle's tactic, repeating his pledge that the part of the amendment legalizing horse meat consumption in the United States would be traded as a bargaining chip for Senate approval of legalizing its sale to foreign countries.

"It's just that this happens to be the only avenue left to us to get it out of here and get it to a point where we can get reasonable people working on it and get it (passed) in some form," Brown says in the transcript.

The vote to kill the amendment, and leave horse slaughter for human consumption illegal, died 72-45.

Reps. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, and Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, voted to kill the amendment. Reps. Mark Homer, D-Paris, Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville, and Leo Berman, R-Tyler, voted against killing the amendment.