Federal Court of Appeals Affirms Ruling Declaring Horse Slaughter Illegal in Texas

Two of the Nation's Three Horse Slaughter Plants Must Now Close

WASHINGTON —Today, The Humane Society of the United States hailed a decision yesterday by the entire United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to affirm an earlier panel decision upholding a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.

Without comment or dissent, the 19 judges of the full court rejected a petition by three foreign-owned slaughter plants seeking full court review of a three-judge panel's January 19, 2006 decision upholding the Texas horse slaughter law. The slaughter plants had claimed the Texas law at issue was unconstitutional, an argument that was quickly brushed aside by the Court in its January opinion and again by its decision denying rehearing yesterday.

"This is the end of the line for the horse slaughter industry in Texas," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The HSUS. "The kill floors should be still and quiet in Texas if the owners of these foreign-owned plants obey the law."

"Only one slaughterhouse continues to operate in the United States, and it is time for Congress to step in and halt this grisly business once and for all," Pacelle added.

The HSUS has been actively campaigning to ban the slaughter of American horses for export for human consumption.

Facts
• The criminal code of Texas has long prohibited the sale or possession of horse meat, but the law has never been enforced.
• According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100,800 American horses were slaughtered in three foreign-owned slaughter houses in 2006. Another 30,000 were sent to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
• Opponents of the slaughter ban argue the practice constitutes a humane way to kill old animals, but investigations by The HSUS show cruelty and abuse throughout the process. USDA statistics show that more than 92 percent of horses slaughtered in the U.S. are not old and infirm but in good condition.
• Legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses nationwide was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Reps. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), John Spratt (D-S.C.), and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 503.
• The measure received tremendous bipartisan support in the 109th Congress, winning a vote of 263 to 146 in the House. It stalled in the Senate in late 2006, however, and was not brought up for a vote before Congress adjourned, even though a similar effort had been overwhelmingly approved by the Senate in 2005.
• Nearly 70 percent of Americans are strongly against the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas.

Timeline
• In 2002, responding to citizen and local government concerns about the two foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the state – Dallas Crown in Kaufman and Beltex in Fort Worth – then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn issued a written opinion that the 1949 Texas law applies and may be enforced.
• In response, the Tarrant County District Attorney attempted to enforce the law, but last year a federal district court in Texas ruled that the law was repealed by another statute and preempted by federal law.
• The District Attorney appealed that decision last year, and the HSUS filed an amicus brief in the case in March 2006.
• In January 2007, the court of appeals upheld the law, flatly rejecting the slaughterhouses' arguments that the ban on the sale of horsemeat does not protect horses from theft and abuse, and that regulating horse slaughter can achieve those same purposes, noting instead that "it is a matter of commonsense that…alternatives…do not preserve horses as well as completely prohibiting the sale and transfer of horsemeat for human consumption."

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 10 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- On the web at www.HumaneSociety.org

Reprinted with permission from The Humane Society of the United States, Tracey McIntire
Source: HSUS Press Release
Photo by Jennifer Hayes
Posted by Jennifer Hayes, Best Friends Network Texas Community Team Leader
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