Pirate Press  December, 2003    Crandall High School    Volume 6, Issue 3
In-Depth News Feature  

Front page photo  

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?
By:  Amanda Blakely and Emily Henderson  

Deep brown eyes gaze from behind the white piping of the fence, desperately searching for his opportunity to escape the confines of the pen and roam the lush green pastures that he once did.  Watching closely as the person approaches the gate, the chestnut quarter horse shifts excitedly at the chance to roam free again, to feel the ground pound loudly against his hooves.  However, the hands that lead him from the pen don’t send him back to the pastures he came from.  Obliviously, the steed walks toward the white metal building, unaware that this moment catapults him into the beginning of the end.  

Mr. Ed is about to become Mr. Edible.  

For more than 25 years, Dallas Crown, Inc., a Texas corporation with European shareholders and Beltex, also a Texas corporation with European shareholders, have made a business of slaughtering horses for human consumption as well as other by-products.  They remain the only two horse slaughtering plants in operation in the United States , with Crown based in Kaufman, and Beltex based in Fort Worth .  

And there’s the rub, according to horse enthusiasts who oppose the slaughter of equines for Sunday brunch, since a 1949 law passed by the Texas Legislature expressly prohibited the sale of horsemeat and the killing of horses for human consumption.  Yet, both plants are in full operation today.   

To the horse protection activists, this is clearly a violation of that law, and they are determined to put an end to this business.  

Crown’s ability to skirt around the 1949 law came in 2002 when the issue was brought to the attention of Skip Trimble, an attorney and member of the Texas Humane Legislation Network.  Trimble delved into the issue of horse slaughter and posed the question of legality to then-Attorney General John Cornyn.  In a written opinion, Cornyn said that indeed the slaughtering plants were in violation of Texas law.  

In 2002, lawyers representing both plants sued the counties of Tarrant and Kaufman in federal court for restricting the companies’ ability to trade internationally.  The plants received a temporary injunction allowing them to continue operation while the issues are battled in court.  


Mary Nash, a long time Kaufman County resident, and hundreds of other anti-horse slaughter lobbyists, say the time has come for the government to enforce laws that are on the books and send the horse-packing plants packing.  

“My family has been in Kaufman for over 150 years.  My great-grandfather settled this farm,” Nash said.  “that land backs right up to Dallas Crown.  It makes me sick.  There are so many beautiful horses [at the plant] and I see them all the time; I can’t get away from it.”  

What Nash won’t get away from either, is her website.  Nash currently operates a website full-time that’s loaded with masses of information lobbying against horse slaughter.  

“I spend about half a day on the web [sorting through] documents that are sent to me, and placing current articles on there about the issue so people can find them,” Nash acknowledged.  

This website, www.kaufmanzoning.net, is the place where hundreds of people go to get horse sense.  Along with articles published by different newspapers, and legal documents is correspondence between Nash and other activists.  

Anti-horse slaughter activists aren’t the only people who visit the site.  Olivier Kemseke, Vice President of Dallas Crown, frequently logs onto the Internet to find what the horse protection activists have to say about his business.  

“I don’t get on every day because it makes me sad to see what all of those people have to say,” he said with a thick Belgian accent.  “When I see it, I’m just like, ‘No comment.’”  

There is more than just pure opinion on horse slaughter in her website.  In fact, information about the current federal bill H.R. 857, the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, can be easily accessed on her site.  

H.R. 857 was introduced in February 2003 and will be placed in front of Congress sometime in January 2004.  The act, if passed, will prevent the horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States by barring the sale and shipping of horses for that purpose.  That includes sending American horses to foreign slaughterhouses.  

Written by Chris Heyde, policy analyst for the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, the bill has the power to prevent meatpacking plants from slaughtering horses.  

“Things are going very well, [but] Congress is basically finished with any business for the year,” Heyde said.  “They will return in mid-to-late January when the bill will be considered yet again.”  

Currently, there are 161 cosponsors of the bill, and the list continues to gain numbers.  

While there is no specific date on when the bill will be addressed, the supporters of the bill are in high spirits.  

“It is impossible to put a timeframe on legislation,” Heyde said.  “I always work each day as if it can pass.  I do feel it can pass during this congress.  As the public learns more about the issue the chances (for the bill to pass) increase.”  

But Don Feare, Tarrant County animal welfare attorney, is wary about H.R. 857’s outcome.  

“I really don’t know if the bill will pass,” Feare said.  “But when Representative Betty Brown, of Kaufman, attempted to pass a bill, which would have permitted the slaughter of horses for human consumption, during the last legislative session, records reveal that particular bill got more public response --- almost all negative--- than any other bill in the history of Texas .”  

And history plays a big part in this particular issue.  Horses are as ingrained in the mythology of Texas lore as the Texas Rangers or the Alamo .  It’s inconceivable for many to even consider eating their horses, which is why slaughtering plants are receiving so much negative feedback.  

For Kemseke, the uncertainty of the future of his business has him a bit uneasy.  “I don’t go to sleep 100% relaxed,” he said.  

He also believes that the public is not informed enough on the business of horse slaughter.  

“We slaughter only horses here at Dallas Crown,” Kemseke said.  “But a lot of people believe we just kill the horses for the ‘French and Belgians’ to eat.  And that’s not true.”  

In fact, sitting in his office, Kemseke produced brochures that are marketing a new medical product that can only be made out of collagen from equine tendons.  Tacho Comb, the name of the product, can close up internal wounds that other types of dressing may not have the ability to do.  

“This product can save lives,” Kemseke said.  “I apologize to the people against us because they [the medical product] can only be made out of horse tendons.”  

Kemseke noted that over five years of research went into the making of Tacho Comb, a foreign-held company.  He also feels that few people truly understand how else the horse is used besides for meat.  

Activists are also concerned that the horses are treated inhumanely while moving from auction to slaughter, or from trailer to slaughter.  

“ I personally believe that it is reprehensible to take an animal that has devoted his or her life to pleasing humans and put it through the misery, terror, and pain that is inflicted on it from the time it’s sent to auction to the time of its horrific death,” said Susan Hendrix, a member of the all-volunteer organization, Texas Humane Legislation Network.  “It’s unthinkable to do that to a dog.  I believe it’s equally unthinkable to do that to a horse.”  

But Kemseke said the horses aren’t put through misery or mistreated.  “If we even hit a horse two times,” he said, “we’d get shut down.  These horses are fed alfalfa imported from Colorado .  What sense does it make to starve a horse that we are going to get meat out of?”  

The horses that are taken to their final destination for processing are sometimes purchased at auctions by “killer-buyers” who represent the slaughterhouses, offering to pay a minimum price for a horse, or sometimes getting horses for no fee at all.  

At auction, each horse must have results of an annual Coggin’s test for Equine Infectious Anemia, a devastating disease spread through their blood by biting flies.  If the owner cannot produce documents with negative test results, then the horse automatically goes to a slaughterhouse, unless the owner wants to keep the horse.  Most of the time, however, those horses get red tagged and are shipped to the slaughterhouse.  

At the plant, it is a federal regulation that the horses be killed under the supervision of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector by using a “captive bolt,” much like the slaughter of pork and beef.  This four-inch bolt is driven into the skull and enters the brain, stunning the animal so that they can string it up by his heels and bleed it out.  

Last year alone, Dallas Crown slaughtered 13,058 American horses, according to the company’s own press release.  According to H.R. 857, the foreign-owned horse slaughter industry has slaughtered and exported for human consumption over three million American horses in the last two decades.  

While the actual slaughtering of these horses occurs in Texas , court records filed in accordance with a federal lawsuit showed that approximately 80 percent of the butchered horses come from other places in the United States and Canada .  

“This shows that this issue is not just in Texas , but it’s an interstate issue,” said Nash.  “Most of the horses aren’t even from Texas .”  


Nash’s Texas property that lies adjacent to Dallas Crown holds more than just land value.  It’s the memories.  

“It holds sentimental attachment for me.  I would ride my horses bareback without a bridal when I was younger.  And it’s not the fact that Dallas Crown is right next to my land, it’s that I have to see all of those beautiful horses all the time,” Nash said with emotion.  

Many horse lovers found their emotions riled when it was discovered that Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner and 1987 Horse of the Year, met his final destination at a slaughterhouse in Japan .  

Despite allegations by the anti-horse slaughter activists that the horses meeting this final, grim result are often healthy and in good shape, Dallas Crown management claims otherwise.  

“These horses are unwanted and often donated because they become unrideable, unfit for use, and crazy,” said Christophe Soenen, Dallas Crown, Inc. general manager.  

Nash said she is infuriated that the company has not only flouted Texas law for so long, but has also polluted the area around the plant.  

In September 2003, Dallas Crown was cited for a giant spill of blood and other bodily fluids that filled the ditch and ran into the street near the Kaufman plant.  

According to Kaufman municipal reports, a large trailer from a semi tractor-trailer tipped over, spilling its contents at a rapid rate.  The total fluids that were spilled were at most 880 gallons of blood and/or other bodily fluids.  Crown was fined $2,000, the maximum amount that could be issued on the specific citation.  

“Accidents happen,” Kemseke said, adding that the company promptly cleaned the spill up.  “Since we are so regulated today, we pay close attention to what we do.”  


Nash and Kemseke both are awaiting Federal Judge Terry Means ruling on whether or not horse slaughter for human consumption is in violation of Texas law.  If he rules against Dallas Crown and Beltex, and shuts down the $40 million industry, some 150 Texas employees may lose their jobs.  

“Our biggest business is, of course, export,” Kemseke said.  “However, the U.S. zoo business [where Crown sells some of its product] are growing larger.”  

Kemseke said Dallas Crown is the bottom market for horses.  “If no one wants a horse, it’s free fall.  If someone can make a good rider out of the horse, then they will buy it.  If not, it will go to the slaughterhouse.”  

But a recent survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research revealed that 77 percent of Texas voters were opposed to passing any laws that would legalize horse slaughter for human consumption.  

Meanwhile, Nash vows she will continue to fight to stop the wholesale slaughter for American horses for Europeans to dine on.  “When I first got involved, I felt like a voice in the wilderness,” Nash said.  “But if I’m not going to stand up for what I believe is right, who else is going to do it?”  

Austin Lewis contributed to this report.

Horse slaughter opponents rallied on steps of the state capitol last May against Betty Brown's bill to legalize horse meat export for Kaufman-based Dallas Crown and Fort Worth-based Beltex.  Photo courtesy www.kaufmanzoning.net