Update May 6, 2010: Tennessee state Rep. Janis Sontany has reported, "Speaker Kent Williams made the motion to have HB1428 sent to summer study on Tuesday in Finance, Ways and Means.Â This, in essence, makes the bill dead for this session."
Keep checking Animal Law Coalition or Equine Welfare Alliance for information about this "summer study" and how you can participate to make sure Tennessee legislators continue to reject horse slaughter.
For more on H.B. 1428 including a recent legislative committee hearing, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.Â Â Â
Update April 28, 2010:Â Following aÂ hearing yesterday before the full House Finance, Ways and Means, Tennessee state Rep. Frank Niceley said he would withdraw his pro-horse slaughter bill, H.B. 1428. Let’s hope so!Â Â
John Holland, founder and president of the Equine Welfare Alliance, and Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, Texas, site of one of the last horse slaughter plants in the U.S., testified in opposition to the bill.Â
Famed singer and songwriter, Willie Nelson and his daughter, Amy Nelson, and granddaughter,Â Raelyn Nelson, were at the hearing in opposition to this bill but did not testify before the committee.
Paula Bacon described that she was mayor of Kaufman "during part of 27 years we spent trying to deal with this horse slaughter plant."Â She told the committee that a horse slaughter facility was a "burden to taxpayers…a stigma" and almost forced the city to spend "millions to upgrade ..the waste water treatment plant".
Bacon said that building a horse slaughter facility was "very definitely not desirable economic development."Â She said the facility does not create good jobs, just a handful of low paying, dangerous Â jobs. She described the burden on the local hospital because of the horse slaughter plant employees were often injured, even losing limbs. Â
She said the city derived no sales tax revenue from the horse slaughter plant. Â Bacon described that the $1600 in property taxes collected each year equaled about "2 weeks of a month paid in legal fees as we wrangled with this company that refused to comply with environmental laws." Â She said income tax records showed in its last year of operation in the U.S., the company paid just $5 in federal income taxes on $12 million in sales and over a five year period paid only .3% of gross sales in taxes.
Bacon showed the committee 1 Â½ years worth of violations of the facility’s waste water treatment permit. She noted the permit allowed the facility to release about eight times the sewage permitted other business, yet the company was still often in violation, releasing waste and blood, that overran the town’s wastewater treatment facility.
Bacon said since the closing of the horse slaughter plant by the court in 2007, the town has not needed to proceed with a $6 million+ upgrade to its waste water treatment facility.
Bacon told the committee they would be better off having lead smeltering plants or sex-related businesses in their communities than a horse slaughter plant.
John Holland told the committee "If you get nothing else out of this, you heard how horse slaughter plants closed in 2007 and it caused problems for the horses. This is not true." He pointed out that horse slaughter remained available in Canada and Mexico and approximately the same number of horses were shipped there as had been slaughtered in the U.S.Â Â
Holland pointed out, "There are lots and lots of drugs in these horses.Â …Because [horsemeat] is sold to foreign countries [for human consumption, our inspectors], looked the other way." Holland described a study led by Dr. Ann Marini that revealed bute, given to horses like aspirin, is a deadly poison, a carcinogen. Â Bute never breaks down and remains a danger to consumers.Â He described the new European Union regulations which beginning this July will require certification that slaughtered horses were drug free for 6 months and that they had never ingested certain drugs. Holland explained that by July, 2013, the EU will require that horses must be tracked from birth. "As of that point, " said Holland, "none of [the meat] from American horses could go to the EU."Â Americans don’t track horses or, for the most part, the drugs given to them. As Holland, explained, "The horses just show up at auction and no one knows [ their history]."
Holland pointed out that though slaughter rates remained the same after the U.S. plants shut down, in 2009 there was a 20% drop in horse slaughter and 12% this year so far because of slowing demand. Holland said, "This is because the EU is figuring out the danger. Europeans are figuring out horse meat is not health food as they were told and instead they are eating New Jersey race horses."Â He described it as "irresponsible" for anyone to build a horse slaughter facility in the U.S. given the danger.
Holland closed his testimony by noting that the horse slaughter facility in Canada, Natural Valley, was closed last year by the government for dropping large amounts of blood in rivers with no proper disposal. He said the horse slaughter facility cost the economy of that community $42 million. Â Â Â Â
For more on this bill and its history, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.
Update April 22:Â The House Finance, Ways and Means BudgetÂ SubcommitteeÂ passed this bill by a vote of 7-6.Â This pro-horse slaughter legislation now advances for hearing before the full Finance, Ways and Means committee.
Update April 1, 2010: After stalling in 2009, Tennessee state Rep. Frank S. Niceley’sÂ pro-horse slaughter bill, H.B. 1428 as amended, (S.B. 1898 in the Tennessee Senate) is now once again advancing in the legislature.Â Â
The bill as originally proposed had nothing to do with horse slaughter. UnderÂ amendments H.B. 1428Â would establish a scheme for licensing horse slaughter facilities, permitting state inspections, and eliminating judicial protections that might be used to hinder the construction of a horse slaughter house in the state.Â Â
Even if commercial horse slaughter was legal in the U.S., which it is not, horse slaughter houses don’t bring revenue or jobs to states or communities. Instead, they bring horrific odors of dying and dead horses, blood literally running down the streets and clogging drains, illegally dumped or discharged waste, burdens on wastewater treatment and sewage systems, financial loss, and terrible animal cruelty.
It is simply a waste of taxpayer dollars for a stateÂ agency to spend time issuing rules and making concessions for this sleazy practice as contemplated by this bill particularly when it is not even legal.Â It is akin to supporting dog fighting rings. Go here for more about the effect of horse slaughter houses on communities. Â
Rep. Niceley’s plan is that a foreign-owned company would build the horse slaughter house in Tennessee and ship horsemeat overseas where it is consumed as a delicacy in some countries. He claims the bill is modeled after the one in Montana passed by that state’s legislature in 2009 and whichÂ MT Gov. Brian Schweitzer allowed to become law. Â
More on H.B. 1428
H.B. 1428 as amendedÂ states: Â
The general assembly finds and declares that issues related to the …slaughter of surplus domestic horses are best addressed by proper state regulations and inspection and not by banning the humane slaughter of surplus domestic horses at the federal level or by exporting such horses to foreign countries for slaughter. The general assembly recognizes the necessity and benefit of Tennessee’s ability to direct the transport and processing of this state’s surplus domestic horses….
[T]he general assembly intends to encourage the location of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee".
The bill as amended would establish a program for the "licensure, licensure renewal, permitting, inspection, and regulation of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee."
The bill would require fees to fund the program and also a pay as you go inspection system.
Anyone who challenges the issuance of a license or permit for a horse slaughter facility, would be required to pay a bond set at "an amount representing twenty percent (20%) of the estimated cost of building the facility or the operational costs of an existing facility." Any such action could only be brought in the county where the facility was being built.
If a court determines that an action challenging a license or permit for a horse slaughterÂ facility was "without merit or was for an improper purpose designed to harass, cause delay, or improperly interfere with the ongoing operation of such facility", the court could award attorney fees and costs incurred in defending the action. Anyone who loses such a lawsuit, would be liable "for all financial losses the facility suffers if the court issues an injunction that halts operations while the action is pending".
The Commissioner of Agriculture would be required to issue rules and regulations to implement this bill if it becomes law.
It is not clear why Tennessee would limit access of its citizens to the courts in favor of foreign interests attempting to bring the seedy horse slaughter racket to the state. Â Rep. Niceley may not be aware there is unlikely to be any tax revenue from horse slaughter to benefit the state or local communities.Â Dallas Crown, for example, a foreign owned slaughter house that operated in Texas until it was shut down in 2007, paid $5.00 in taxes on $12 million in sales in one year, a typical amount.Â Â Go here for more on financial burdens that horse slaughter houses impose on states and communities.Â Â Â
Curiously,Â Rep. Niceley does not mentionÂ thatÂ the slaughter of horses for human consumption remains illegal in the U.S. The last 3 slaughter houses in the U.S. were shut down in 2007 as a result of Congressional action, state legislationÂ and federal court decisions.
American horses are still sent for slaughter, however, usually to Mexico or Canada. A federal bill, the Conyers Burton Equine Prevention of Cruelty Act of 2009, H.R. 503/S.B. 727, would Â make it illegal to "possess…, ship…, transport…, purchase.., sell… deliver…, or receive" in interstate or foreign commerce any horse "with the intent that it is to be slaughtered for human consumption". Â It would also be illegal under this bill to trade in horse flesh or carcass for the purpose of human consumption.Â Â
Indeed, Rep. Niceley’s billÂ is the latest in a series of resolutions and bills that pro horse slaughterers have filed in state legislatures this year as ploys to defeat H.R. 503/S.B. 727.
They also hope to create a market for horsemeat in the U.S. Â They want Americans to get used to the idea of eating their horses, their friends and companions. If Americans begin eating horsemeat, the theory is that Congress will be forced to fund ante-mortem inspections. Horse slaughter for human consumption is not legal in the U.S. currently because these required inspections are not funded. For more on this…..Â . Â Â Â
Rep. Niceley claims this bill would address the "problem" of unwanted horses. This is disingenuous. Horse slaughter is not a means ofÂ controlling numbers ofÂ "unwanted horses". This is a myth perpetuated by the horse slaughter industry that is simply intentionally repeated over and over again though proponents know it has no basis in fact.Â
Horse slaughter is a for profit practice, reaping millions for foreign investors each year. It is Â driven solely by a demand for horse meat, not unwanted horses, whatever that means. If everyone stopped eating horsemeat tomorrow, there would be no more horse slaughter for human consumption, regardless of the number of unwanted horses. Â
Kill buyers buy horses at auction for slaughter, and the USDA has said over 92% of American horses slaughtered, are healthy, not old, sick, injured, or neglected.Â These horses were not unwanted; they were simply sold at auction, and their owners had no control over who purchased them. Â Without the kill buyers who skulk around horse auctions, looking for the best potential horse meat, most of these horses would be purchased by others or end up in rescues or sanctuaries. Â
A study released last year showed Â a decrease in horse abuse and neglect cases following closure of the last U.S. horse slaughter house in 2007. Â Any abandoned or neglected horses are not a result of a lack of horse slaughter houses.
Historically,Â there have not been increases in abandoned, neglected or abused horses following closures of horse slaughter houses. In 2002 the Illinois slaughter house burned to the ground and was out of commission for some time.Â Reports of abandoned, abused and neglected horses in the Illinois area were actually on the rise in the 2 years before the fire but decreased afterwards.
Remember the number of horses slaughtered in the U.S. dropped significantly from over 300,000 annually in the 1990s to 66,000 in 2004. Â There was no notable increase during that time of abandoned, abused or neglected horses.
When California banned horse slaughter in 1998, there was no rise in cases of cruelty or neglect to horses. In fact, there was a 39.4% decrease initially and that rose to 88% eventually in horse thefts. (What does that tell you about this "business"?)
Also, from 2005-2007 nearly 15,000 horses were imported from Canada into the U.S. for slaughter. If horse slaughter occurs because of all the unwanted horses, why would these horse slaughter businessesÂ need to import them?Â The answer is, of course, they wouldn’t.
Horse slaughter has nothing to do with controlling numbers ofÂ unwanted horses. It is a business driven by a demand for horse meat primarily as a delicacy in foreign countries.Â Â
As John Holland, a free lance writer and researcher on horse slaughter and consultant for Americans Against Horse Slaughter and founder of Equine Welfare Alliance, has explained, "Kill buyers do not go around the country like dog catchers gathering â€˜unwanted horses’ as a public service."Â
Also, the salvage or secondary market for horses is created by over-breeding: It isÂ slaughter that enables over-breeding that results in what are more accurately described as "excess" horses, not "abandoned and starving" horses. Any drop in prices of horses is the result of a poorÂ economy. For more information, read John Holland’s "Selling the Unwanted Horse".Â