It might seem late in the game to comment, but I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my head around all the state support for a legislative bill that will allow the wholesale slaughtering of horses in the state and the sale of their flesh to other countries.
The measure, House Bill 1999, sponsored by state Rep. Skye McNiel, a Bristow Republican, has passed both the House and Senate by clear margins and might even be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin by the time this is published.
At its core, horse slaughtering seems abhorrent, whether done here or in Mexico. Horses are domesticated animals with a long history of work toil and loyalty, enshrined forever in American mythology. We ride on their backs. They literally carry our loads. They express affection for us.
Horses, after all, are not raised for the consumption of their flesh, but as, in many, many cases, pets, just as important or even more important to their owners because of their work capacity as a beloved dog and cat. We wouldn’t allow the wholesale slaughter of dogs and cats here and the sale of their flesh to other countries, would we? Why would our country sell “meat” to other countries that is basically considered taboo for consumption here?
Somehow that logic, as simple as it is, has become marginalized or deemed extreme in what debate happened during the consideration of the bill both inside and outside of the legislature.
But the logic does get at the arguments in favor of the bill, which go like this: There is an overpopulation of horses in the country and many people here now sell their old horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughter houses. Allowing horse slaughter plants here in Oklahoma will actually make the process more humane, and, oh yeah, but don’t say it too loud, horse dealers and the new slaughter plant owners here can make some good change while expressing their compassionate humanity.
Of course, the central premise that slaughtering is the best way to deal with horse overpopulation is heavily flawed. There are a myriad of ways to deal with the issue through basic horse ownership regulations.
So Trigger becomes European lasagna, but it’s good for the state economy, right? That’s just how much free market principles have become distorted in this country.
McNiel has even conceded her family, which owns a horse auctioning business, will benefit from the measure once Fallin signs it into law. The McNiel conflict of interest should have drawn skepticism in itself and the bill should have been killed, but there was no substantial outcry from her legislative peers on the issue. Maybe other legislators might want to pass their own laws one day to enrich their own families.
So it, as it so often does, comes down to money. But that doesn’t take into account that horses are often given medications in their lifetimes that could render their flesh dangerous for consumption. State Sens. Al McAffrey, an Oklahoma City Democrat and Constance Johnson, a Forest Park Democrat, eloquently brought up this point in legislative debate, but the concern was pretty much brushed aside with the argument that government meat inspectors will take care of all that. The bill passed the Senate on a 32-14 vote.
Supporters of the bill never really effectively addressed three other issues. One issue is the special relationship “the horse,” as an iconic animal, has to Oklahoma’s ties to frontier history and the state’s significant contemporary horse industry. Just maybe Oklahoma is one state that should jump off the horse-slaughter bandwagon and let other states do the butchering. Another issue is the admittedly slippery slope argument that some of all that horse meat is going to end up in our own food supply. The third issue is that a recent poll showed Oklahomans are decisively against horse slaughtering here.
Vegans and vegetarians might just argue that this issue shows just why we should all stop eating animals in the first place.
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