OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Animal lovers from across Oklahoma roamed the halls of the state Capitol on Thursday urging their local legislators to oppose legislation that would pave the way for a horse slaughtering facility in the state.
Officials with three animal rights groups sponsored Humane Lobby Day and briefed about 50 participants on how to lobby their elected officials.
“We certainly don’t want to be known as the place where horses are trucked in and slaughtered for meat that will be shipped to other countries,” said Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma director of the Humane Society of the United States.
The House and Senate each passed bills designed to end Oklahoma’s 50-year ban on horse slaughtering and allow a facility to open that would package horse meat for export. The sale of horse meat for human consumption still would be prohibited within Oklahoma.
Supporters say the bills would help curb an increase in the number of abandoned horses and prevent the animals from being shipped to Mexico for slaughter.
“There’s a plant in New Mexico that’s about 60 days away from opening. There’s a plant behind that in Missouri, maybe two. We would not be the only plant. We would not be the first,” said Rep. Skye McNeil, R-Bristow, who is sponsoring one of the bills.
McNeil added that the animal activists weren’t helping the animals.
“All they’re doing is sending them to Mexico,” McNeil said. “If they want to protect a horse, let’s do it humanely in the United States, in Oklahoma.”
Federal officials have suggested they might soon grant the inspection that’s needed to start processing horse meat at slaughterhouse in New Mexico, but President Barack Obama’s administration has urged Congress to reinstate a ban on equine slaughter.
Prior to 2007, there were three major horse slaughter facilities in the United States but those facilities closed after Congress prohibited the use of federal funds to conduct inspections.
In Oklahoma, the possession or sale of any quantity of horse meat for human consumption has been banned since 1963.
The legislation from McNeil and Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, seek to end that prohibition. McNeil’s bill passed the House on an 82-14 vote, while Allen’s cleared the Senate with a 38-6 margin.