SEPTEMBER 26, 2002

3 P.M.

Horse Slaughter Companies Sue to Stop D.A.’s
From Enforcing Texas Horse Meat Ban

For the past several weeks the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office has been conducting in inquiry into the slaughter of horses and sale of horse meat for human consumption. [Slaughtering horses for other purposes, such as animal food, is not illegal in Texas.] Tarrant County and Kaufman County are the only 2 counties in Texas where USDA-inspected plants slaughter horses for export for human consumption.

Beltex, the corporation that slaughters horses in Tarrant County and exports the horse meat overseas, Dallas Crown, the company that slaughters in Kaufman County, and Empacadora de Carnes de Fresnillo, S.A., de C.V., a corporation in Mexico that ships horse meat through Texas, together sued the Tarrant County D.A. and the Kaufman County D.A. in federal court in Fort Worth. Their joint lawsuit asks the court to stop the D.A.’s from enforcing the Texas horse meat ban. The Tarrant County D.A.’s office recently notified Beltex that it was moving to enforce the horse meat ban.

Various state and federal agencies involved in regulating meat production have known about the slaughtering for decades and have been involved in inspecting the horses and horse meat. There has been a widespread belief in state and federal agencies that federal law prevents Texas from enforcing its horse meat ban. Arguments about federal law and the right of Texas to ban specific products will be central issues in today’s lawsuit.

The Texas Attorney General addressed horse slaughtering in August 2002, issuing what may be the first official Texas opinion saying that horse meat sale for human consumption is illegal in Texas and may be prosecuted in Texas even if the horse meat is exported overseas. At the time the A.G.’s opinion was received in August, we received requests from State Representative Toby Goodman and State Representative Tony Goolsby to look into this matter, which we began to do immediately. At the time the lawsuit was filed today, our lawyers were completing their preparatory legal research, and they have so far found no law or court case that prevents Texas from enforcing the horse meat ban.

Our office intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit. For over 50 years, the Texas Legislature has had a law on the books that bans the sale of horse meat for human consumption. We will defend the right of Texas to continue to have such a ban, not only on the books but in practice. We will fight to protect the ability of Texas D.A.’s to enforce the ban as written by the Legislature and as declared by the Texas Attorney General. We will conduct this fight vigorously and in accordance with the rules that govern federal lawsuits. While the Attorney General’s recent opinion is helpful in this effort, the final resolution will now be in the hands of the court system.

A declaration of rights and legal relations, a restraining order, and injunctions are sought by the lawsuit. Once the first injunction hearing is had, we will better know the additional issues in the upcoming litigation. We look forward to moving this case through the court system so that the slaughter and horse meat sale issues can be settled once and for all.

For further information contact: Ann Diamond 817.884-1233