Legal battle draws national attention

By Jeffrey Jordan

A local decision on the fate of the Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant will have to wait until next year.

The City of Kaufman has agreed to a temporary injunction allowing the facility, which is located on U.S. Highway 175, to remain open until at least February.

In March the City of Kaufman ordered Dallas Crown to shut down by Sept. 30 because the business is a nuisance and based on public health and safety concerns.

Attorneys for Dallas Crown and its sister company Waldo countered in court with a trial set to begin in January in Judge Michael Chitty's district court. The temporary injunction allows the facility to remain active until a decision is reached in district court.

The ongoing legal battle along with its controversial subject matter has already brought the national spotlight on Kaufman.

Last week, Vicki Mabry of ABC's Nightline was in town conducting interviews to coincide with next week's expected vote by U.S. House members on a bill that would end the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S.

Among those interviewed was Kaufman Mayor Paula Bacon, who said most of her discussions with Mabry concerned the impact the facility had on the community.

“I let them know we had a unanimous vote by the city council and the zoning board to set a closing date for Dallas Crown,” Bacon said. “I told them about the effects it had on the nearby neighborhood. I let them know about the letters of complaint we had received from [former] Presbyterian Hospital of Kaufman president Kirk King and three other physicians. I said that we are not better off having a horse slaughter plant in our town, but worse off.”

In the national spotlight, Bacon admitted to having some butterflies before tackling such an issue.

“There's an audience of 20 million out there so I really had to calm myself down and gather my thoughts,” Bacon said. “This is an important issue. I really had to give it my all to represent and advocate my community well.”

Bacon called the injunction and delay in closing of the plant “disappointing,” but she remained optimistic about the city's efforts.

“I've already received calls, and people in the nearby neighborhood are not happy,” Bacon said. “I think we have a solid case, though, that is the result of seven months of hearings and investigation. The thing to remember is that in this case, it's not about horse slaughter: it's about a nuisance. If you look at it that way, there just doesn't seem like there is any other answer except to say yes it is a nuisance.”

Bacon is equally as optimistic about passage of the U.S. House Bill banning horse slaughter.

“Congress holds the key, and I'm very optimistic to see this happen,” Bacon said of the planned Sept. 7 vote. “Every time talks related to banning horse slaughter have come before Congress, a 3-to-1 majority has favored the ban.”

Mark Calabria, a Kaufman attorney who is representing Dallas Crown, isn't as confident Congress will pass the bill.

“They have a pretty big agenda so I'm not sure how much attention it will receive,” Calabria said. “If, in fact, any legislation is passed it could affect the lawsuit.”

Calabria, though, added that Dallas Crown “feels pretty positive about what is going on” in Washington D.C.

Calabria wasn't interviewed by Nightline, but said he had received calls from People magazine, ABC's Washington D.C. affiliate, The Associated Press and the local CBS affiliate.

“It's been kind of amazing to me,” Calabria said. “I didn't realize there was this much interest in the horse processing industry. It's had an amazing amount of publicity.”

Publicity or not, Bacon said the ultimate goal is determining what's best for the Kaufman community.

“I see all this development going on all around us, but not so much here. I don't think having a horse slaughter plant in our community helps our image,” Bacon said. “Unfortunately, our community has been branded with this stigma. Now, I'm looking for something better for Kaufman.”

Dallas Crown is one of three plants in the United States that slaughters horses for human consumption.