Bill to legalize horse slaughterhouses advances in Oklahoma
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
2/13/13 at 8:01 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislation to legalize horse slaughterhouses in Oklahoma passed a state House Committee on Tuesday, the same day the bill's author was hit with an ethics complaint.
Without debate or questions, the House Public Health Committee voted 8-2, split by party, in favor of House Bill 1999, sending the proposal to the House floor for possible consideration. A similar bill passed a Senate committee on Monday.
"Not only are we destroying our reputation as the horse show capital of the world and replacing it with the dead horse capital of the world, we're also destroying our reputation as a provider of wholesome food," Cynthia Armstrong, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said after the vote.
But Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, said her proposal is a humane one that is designed to deal with a growing problem in rural Oklahoma - old horses that have outlived their working lives and are being abandoned to starve.
Opposition to the bill is being driven by out-of-state groups that have agitated people who don't understand the problem, she said.
"They're not from here. They're not from Oklahoma. They're certainly not from rural Oklahoma," McNiel said. "We need to ... stay focused on the fact that we have an overpopulation of horses that have come to their end use and have a humane discussion about what we're going to do."
Armstrong said slaughterhouses are inhumane to horses and destructive to communities.
"They would love to keep ... hammering home that there's so many starving horses, that they're helping neglected horses by slaughtering them. They're saying it's the equivalent of euthanasia, that it's a mercy thing," she said. "As long as we keep it there, we're never going to get around to talking about the fact that these plants are community killers."
Horse slaughterhouses damage community reputations and are environmentally destructive, she said.
Furthermore, American horses aren't raised to be food and are routinely injected with drugs that would make the meat's consumption dangerous, she said.
Despite advocate claims that meat from a horse facility would not be sold in the state, Armstrong said it is wrong to produce food that is toxic and dangerous.
"We wouldn't ship an illicit drug, like heroin, overseas ... just because we could sell it to somewhere where there may be a market for it," she said. "It's a very hypocritical viewpoint."
Armstrong complained that for the second day in a row she wasn't able to address the issue when it was brought before a legislative committee.
Earlier in the hearing, other members of the public were allowed to address bills under consideration, and Armstrong said she was promised an opportunity to speak, but that didn't happen.
"They just shoved it right through," she said.
Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, one of the two committee members who voted against the proposal, said the process worked very quickly, but she said she didn't think it would have made much of a difference if Armstrong had been allowed to speak.
"The minds were made up," McDaniel said, adding that she has gotten more constituent contacts opposing the horse proposal than any other issue this year.
"I couldn't possibly support it," she said.
Meanwhile, Patience O'Dowd of Placitas, N.M., distributed a copy of an ethics complaint that she says she and Jerilyn Davis of Norman filed against McNiel.
The complaint alleges that McNiel's bill would violate a state ethics law because McNiel has either a "pecuniary interest" in the bill or would receive "a reasonably foreseeable benefit" from it.
McNiel works at her family's sale barn, and other family members are also in the livestock auction business, according to the complaint.
McNiel said her grandparents' sale barn, where she works, primarily deals in cattle and wouldn't particularly benefit from the bill any more than any other auction house, feed store or transporter.
While the Senate version of the proposal would require that the sale of horses for slaughter go through auctions, McNiel's bill does not.
"The people who are going to benefit are the horse owners," she said.
"I know that they want to make this argument about me instead of talking about the cold, hard facts," McNiel said. "I've seen these starved horses on the ends of the roads. I've seen them turned out on my pastures. I've seen what happens to these horses."
Ethics Commission Executive Director Lee Slater said he couldn't confirm the filing of complaints. If a complaint is filed, it would be forward to the commission, which would decide whether to investigate, he said.
How they voted
House Bill 1999 passed the House Public Health Committee on an 8-2 vote.
Voting for the measure: Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove; Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond; Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa; Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso; Rep. John Enns, R-Enid; Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson; Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow.
Voting against the measure: Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa; Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City.
Original Print Headline: Measure on horse slaughter advances
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Cynthia Armstrong (left) and Rep. Skye McNiel: The two disagree over legislation proposed by McNiel.