By Jeanne LeFlore
Local politicians and a local businessman say they support legislation to bring horse slaughter plants to Oklahoma while the president of a local animal rescue group says the bill is motivated by profit.
If passed by the Senate, the legislation could be signed into law this week and take effect Nov. 1.
House Bill 1999 and SB 375, authored by Rep. Skye McNeil, R-Bristow, and Sen. Mark Allen, R-Arkoma, amends the Oklahoma Meat Inspection Act by allowing horses, mules or other equine animals to be transported, manufactured, processed, packed, sold or prepared in Oklahoma as long as the meat is sold on the international market.
A survey released Monday by Soonerpoll.com says 66 percent of Oklahoma voters oppose the passage of HB 1999 and SB375.
McAlester resident Lindsey Grant said he took part in a recent rally at the Oklahoma Capitol to push for the legislation. Grant sits on the board of the Cattlemen’s Association and the Farm Bureau of McAlester.
“We love our horses; I have been around them all my life,” Grant said.
“And economically, I think the bill will be great for the state.
“Horses are dumped and left to starve because some owners don’t have a choice. This bill will give them away to humanely get rid of their horses.”
Misty Stewart, president of Partners for Animal Welfare Society in McAlester, said the bill is motivated by profit.
“It’s not a a humane alternative,” Stewart said. “House Bill 1999 was introduced by Rep. Skye McNiel whose family owns a Bristow sale barn that stands to profit through the legislation.”
McNiel has not denied the potential for her family to profit. Earlier this month, she told the Tulsa World that passage of the bill would be a monetary gain for the livestock auction house owned by her grandparents and managed by her family. McNiel said that gain would be shared by the state’s horse auctioneers and is insubstantial compared to the financial gain to the state’s horse owners who are looking a way to dispose of animals that have lost their use.
Meanwhile, Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma director of the United States Humane Society, said Oklahomans don’t want the bill.
“The polls show that Oklahomans are against the bill,” she said, referring to the Sooner Poll conducted on the issue.
And she said that the processing could cause economic hardship to the surrounding community.
“It could pollute air with a foul stench, cause a drop in property values, discourage other legitimate businesses we seek to attract,” she said, adding the bill could increase crime in the area, especially horse theft.
Local state Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, abstained from a vote on HB1999, citing constitutional privilege. But he said he supports the legislation.
“We can do the processing here; we can regulate it,” Renegar said. “We can’t regulate what happens to those horses in old Mexico.”
Stewart says that horses will still be transported to Mexico.
“The bill doesn’t close transport to Mexico,” Stewart said. “Old, lame horses could still be transported to Mexico to die horrific deaths.”
State Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton, said he loves horses and has been around them all of his life. He said he also supports the legislation.
“Unfortunately we live in a society where people dump their horses,” he said. “Last year, the sheriff had to care for some of these horses and we took on a few ourselves.”
He said he represents his voters. “I have 90 percent of my constituents that support this bill,” Boggs said.
Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, said he also supports the legislation.”
There is a horse population problem, Condit said, and “this bill offers a solution.”
And Condit said he agrees with a statement issued on Monday by Senator Allen: “If they really wanted to solve the problem, all the (animal rights activists) would have to do is show up at the horse auction, buy the horses, and provide them food, water, shelter, hoof and medical care. After they care for the 400,000 horses that we sent to the border the last four years, they (also) take care of the offspring ... even the Bureau of Land Management realizes the problems of equine over-population.”
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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