The Norman Transcript

March 31, 2013

Horse slaughter legislation not the answer

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

I wish to voice my opposition to legislation permitting horse slaughter in Oklahoma. I am an attorney, a local small business owner, and a horse owner. My main concern in the slaughter of these animals is the potential for contaminated meat to enter the market. Over the years, we have injected our own horses with medications and have administered oral and topical medications that, according to our veterinarians, makes the horses unsuitable for human consumption.

There has been no indication by these veterinarians that a waiting period of 21 days or longer before slaughter will “cure” this concern. When horses are purchased at auctions for slaughter, there is no reliable record of the medications they have consumed. There is likewise no regulation regarding their care or living conditions prior to being sold for slaughter. This represents the issues of sickly and unfit animals entering the human food chain.

If we have high confidence that a horse slaughterhouse in Oklahoma would consistently produce meat that is safe for human consumption, then I question why the sale of such meat would be banned in Oklahoma.

I realize that there is a great need for a solution to the abandoned, neglected, and/or unwanted horses in our state. However, I propose that we make other efforts to solve this growing problem rather than turning to horse slaughter for a solution. For example, we help fund our state’s animal shelters by requiring annual pet licenses. We do this out of a sense of duty and respect for animals that humans have bred over the years to serve as companions to increase our quality of life but that have regrettably found themselves without homes. I have read that there are over 300,000 registered horses in Oklahoma.

They, too, have been bred and raised as companions and increase our quality of life. If each horse owner were required to pay just $15 per year in the form of a license for ownership of a horse, that would generate $4,500,000 annually that could be earmarked for the care of abandoned, neglected and/or seized horses or for low-cost euthanasia options for owners who no longer can or wish to keep their equine animals.

My second concern with horse slaughter is that it fails to protect the horse as an important symbol of our country’s and state’s history. We spend an enormous amount of funds for the protection of other federal and state artifacts, species and historical symbols. Our country and state would not have developed as they did without the horse as a companion, as a means for transportation and farming, and as a thriving industry.

Horses have not historically been bred as a food source but rather have been groomed and bred to be human companions.

To assume that they can be processed for meat consumption in a similar manner as we process cattle is mistaken. When I watch videos of slaughterhouses, I am struck by how calm cattle are as they are processed through these facilities. On the other hand, horses that process through these facilities appear to be noticeably terrified and unsettled. I do not believe that good regulation of slaughterhouses in our state would negate the simple fact that horses are different animals and were meant for a different purpose than the cattle and other livestock historically raised to feed our population.

We should not make efforts to promote an industry overseas that conflicts with our country’s and our state’s emotional and historical attachment to these outstanding animals. To permit the slaughter of animals that represent such an important aspect of our history is denigrating.

Lastly, the negative stigma surrounding horse slaughter likely would lend itself to a noticeable decline in property values in areas containing such slaughterhouses.

I urge people to consider the above and question any legislation legalizing horse slaughter in our state. The fact that Oklahoma horses are currently being purchased for slaughter in Mexico should not encourage us to legalize it here in an effort to do a better job of processing an animal and an American symbol that was never intended to be a food source. Rather, it should encourage us to excel in creating a more humane solution to an overall productive and thriving horse business that, like many businesses, sometimes results in abuse and neglect by a few.

I wish to thank our Representatives for their tireless efforts and service to our state. My family and I personally benefit every day from the work that our elected officials do. I realize that politicians feel compelled to accurately represent their constituency. My fear is that a significant percentage of the constituency felt that their opinions were adequately represented by the special interest groups and out-of-state entities that previously contacted our representatives to oppose horse slaughter and that they did not realize soon enough that they individually needed to make their voices heard. I did not write or call my Representatives’ offices or the Governor’s office prior to this point because I had complete confidence that the above factors would surely result in our elected officials rejecting the slaughter of horses in our state.

I do not harbor any negative feelings toward the authors of the horse slaughter bills. I respect their attempts to find a solution.

Even proposed legislation that is disagreeable has the positive result of bringing important issues to the forefront and forcing awareness of the need to address unpleasant and expensive realities. I feel that with more time and more effort, our state can achieve a more palatable solution. Let us not permit ourselves to rush into a decision that would result in an inadequate and irresponsible end to the well-meaning initial attempts to address a state problem.

Amy J. Stevens


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