America’s relationship with France may be strained, but one thing hasn’t changed. Texas horses, by the thousands, are being slaughtered and shipped to France to satisfy the palates of wealthy French diners.
Only two horse slaughter plants exist in the United States today. Both are in Texas, both are foreign owned (one French) and both are operating in violation of a Texas law that prohibits the process or sell of horse meat for human consumption.
“In Texas, we ride our horses, we don’t eat them,” said State Rep. Steve Wolens (D-Dallas) who spoke on the House floor in opposition to House Bill 1324, the bill to legalize horse slaughter for human consumption. “I think the majority of Texans would agree it’s reprehensible to slaughter our horses for French cuisine.”
As attorney general of Texas, John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, ruled in August 2002 that the two horse slaughter plants, French-owned Dallas Crown in Kaufman and Belgian-owned Beltex in Fort Worth, were operating illegally and must shut down or face prosecution.
To stall prosecution, the two plants filed suit in federal court to stop the enforcement of Texas law and were granted a temporary injunction just last month. The horse slaughter plants scored their second victory when HB 1324 passed in the Texas House by a vote of 81 to 55 and will be heard in a Senate committee hearing as early as next week.
If HB 1324 becomes law, it will override current law to make horse slaughter for human consumption a crime only if the consumption occurs in the United States. These two plants slaughter live horses, process their meat, and ship it to France, Belgium, Germany and Japan for human consumption in these countries.
Proponents of HB 1324 claim the vast majority of the horses slaughtered are old, sick or lame. But in reality, the majority of horses sent to slaughter are young, healthy horses bought by “killer buyers” who attend horse auctions where they compete with families and other horse brokers looking for good, sound horses. A French horse meat butcher was quoted as saying “I only buy American meat, which is red and firm. In butchering terms, we call it “well structured,” the best you can get.”
State Rep. Toby Goodman (R-Arlington) called for an amendment to HB 1324 that would require a horse be certified unfit by a veterinarian before it could be slaughtered. “If only old, sick or lame horses are going to slaughter, why did the bill sponsor object so strongly to this amendment?” he questioned.
Proponents of HB 1324 claim that horse slaughter provides a convenient and humane way of disposing of unwanted horses, and some have tried to equate it with euthanasia.
Christopher J. Heyde, policy analyst for the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, said that horse slaughter is not humane, adding “to claim that slaughter and euthanasia are similar is irresponsible and false. The animals are not always stunned properly, nor do they necessarily remain unconscious until death.”
“I’ve visited a horse slaughter facility during the slaughter process and I can assure you that the fear and anticipation experienced by these horses is unimaginable. You could smell the fear and see the panic. The slaughter process inflicts immeasurable suffering and cruelty on the horses,” said
Proponents also claim if these two Texas plants close, horses will be shipped to Mexico. However, after California banned horse slaughter in 1998, horse industry experts say they have lost only an estimated 1,000 horses to Mexico over the past five years. More than 42,000 horses were slaughtered alive in these two Texas plants just last year.
(If you would like a video cassette on horse slaughter , please contact Susan Hendrix at (512) 476-3377.)