The Norman Transcript

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March 19, 2013

Senate ag committee supports horse slaughter bill

NORMAN — A bill to legalize the slaughter of horses in Oklahoma is approaching the finish line, after members of the Senate agriculture committee voted unanimously Monday in support of the measure.

The proposed legislation has riled the Oklahoma Humane Society and some horse owners who fear that what would become the only horse slaughtering facility in the United States could locate near the McClain County town of Washington.

But other horsesmen including several lawmakers who live in rural farming communities, strongly endorse passage of House Bill 1999. Supporters include the Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association and the Oklahoma Pork Council.

There was no discussion before the voice vote Monday in Senate committee, although several of those opposed to the horse slaughter gathered outside the Senate meeting room right after the vote to voice their concerns.

A tearful 15-year-old Abbey Rutherford of Owasso said, “Not one senator had it in their heart to say no.”

Rutherford, who has three horses of her own, said, “I can’t imagine how anyone could hurt a horse.”

Rep. Skye McNiel, author of the House bill, said purpose of the legislation is to provide a place where the old and feeble horses can be slaughtered, rather than going to Mexico, which is where they go now.

Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma director of the Humane Society of the United States, said she doesn’t believe that all of these horses are old or lame, but they are being raised and marketed just like cattle, hogs and sheep.

Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, said he has never found this to be the case with the quarter horse or Arabian horse owners.

McNiel, R-Bristow, estimates that in a year’s time, about 21,000 Oklahoma horses  were disposed of out of a state horse population of about 350,000.

The lawmaker, whose grandparents ran an animal auction barn for decades, has said that she thinks those who do not live in rural areas can’t understand what the needs of rural Oklahoma are.

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