“The killing of the horses is so brutal, I don't care whether it's in Oklahoma or it's in Mexico where they take them...There's other uses for the horses, other than just taking them to the slaughterhouse." ~ Senator Randy Bass
State Senator, Randy Bass, has filed legislation giving Oklahomans control over whether to allow horse slaughter plants in their communities. Senate Joint Resolution 66 (SJR66) would require proposed equine slaughter facilities to be approved by a majority of qualified voters in the county where the facility is to be located.
“When Governor Fallin signed legislation into law last year legalizing horse slaughter, she issued a statement saying it was important for towns to be able to block horse slaughter plants if that was their will,” said Bass, D-Lawton. “This legislation would simply give counties the option to decide for themselves whether they want these facilities in their jurisdictions or not.”
Opponents of horse slaughter facilities point to statistics from around the country showing the plants have a negative economic impact on nearby communities, including lower real estate values. Other problems associated with horse slaughter plants include increased crime, such as horse theft. Critics also warn the plants have been tied to air and groundwater contamination which poses a public health risk.
A survey conducted by Sooner Poll last year revealed that the majority of Oklahomans did not want a horse slaughter facility in their community.
“What’s interesting is the fact that it didn’t really matter if you were talking about people living in a rural area or a large city, and it didn’t matter if they were a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal—the overwhelming majority did not want a horse slaughter plant in their community,” Bass said. “This legislation reaffirms our citizens’ right to block such a facility if that’s what the majority of qualified voters decide.”
Source: Press Release, Oklahoma State Senate
For more information contact:
Sen. Bass: (405) 521-5567
Four months into litigation aimed at preventing horses from being legally slaughtered in the United States, animal law attorney Bruce A. Wagman is already citing Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack as one of the “illustrative representations” of his experience.
Others might just call it a win. M. Christina Armijo, chief U.S. District Court judge for New Mexico, has already granted Wagman’s clients a temporary restraining order in the case. He wants a permanent injunction against USDA inspecting any horse-slaughter facilities in the U.S.
Wagman and Rocky N. Unruh, an expert in complex trials, are San Francisco attorneys from the national Schiff Hardin law firm, which has 400 attorneys based out of Chicago. Among the 15 plaintiffs Wagman and Unruh represent is one definitely large enough to pay their fees, the Humane Society of the United States.
With prestigious offices on L Street in Washington, D.C., and annual revenues that were approaching $200 million when last reported two years ago, HSUS is a nonprofit that can easily keep Wagman and Unruh in its legal stable.
In addition to more than two decades of experience litigating animal law cases, Wagman literally wrote the book on the subject. His “Animal Law: Cases and Materials” is in its fourth edition as a law school textbook.
Wagman’s job this time is to stop three small businesses located in rural areas of Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico that saw an opportunity two years ago when the federal government’s ban on horse slaughter was lifted. All three went through an extensive process in requesting a so-called “grant of inspection” from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Plaintiffs filed to block that from happening just as USDA decided to provide inspection services to the three businesses, Responsible Transportation in Iowa, Rains Natural Meats in Missouri, and Valley Meats in New Mexico. All three planned to pack horsemeat for export.
That’s when Wagman won the temporary restraining order. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys for the three named defendants in the case — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen and FSIS Administrator Al Almanza — then suggested speeding up the case by skipping all preliminary arguments.
Wagman and Unruh agreed. For the past six weeks, there’s been a flurry of motions and arguments going back and forth. And while there has been no scheduled or target date announced for Armijo’s ruling on the merits of the case, Wagman seems to be winning the preliminary decisions.
For example, Armijo ruled against the government when USDA sought to have the Declaration of Dr. Daniel L. Engeljohn entered as a supplement to the administrative record. Engeljohn is arguably USDA’s top expert on horse slaughter and was the official directly in charge of the administrative process.
Also, the magistrate judge responsible for processing requests for injunction bonds denied the request of Rains Natural Meats. Valley Meats and Responsible Transportation, which were both included in the original injunction, did require bonds, but Rains was not because it came later.
However, since USDA was enjoined by additional court action from providing inspection services to Rains, that business faces similar jeopardy.
In addition to the plaintiffs represented by the Schiff Hardin attorneys, the State of New Mexico has intervened on their side of the case. Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff is representing New Mexico.
DOJ attorneys Alison D. Garner, Andrew A. Smith and Robert G. Dreher are representing USDA. Dreher is the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. for environment and natural resources.
The three business and numerous others have intervened on the government side. The most active attorney among several for those interests is A. Blair Dunn of Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, the law the Oklahoma Legislature passed last May to permit horse slaughter in that state takes effect on Friday, Nov. 1. Under the new law, any horse-slaughter facility would require approval from USDA, and officials say there are no applications in the works at this time.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
Surveys conducted by Lake Research Partners in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa confirm that an overwhelming majority (70%+) of voters in all three states disapprove of horse slaughter for human consumption and would oppose the opening of horse slaughter facilities in their states. Opposition to horse slaughter for human consumption in these three states is broad and deep, extending across every demographic, regional and partisan group.
Unfortunately, meat processors in at least five states—the three surveyed, as well as Oklahoma and Tennessee—are currently trying to get horse meat plants up and running. The New Mexico processor, Valley Meat Company, passed a USDA inspection in April and its permit to begin slaughtering horses for meat could come through as soon as the end of June.
There has been no slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. since 2007, but there is no federal law against it. But with your help, we can fix that! Please join us in advocating for Congressional passage of the SAFE Act, a bill that would ban horse slaughter in all 50 states, as well as the transport of our horses over our borders for slaughter in other countries.