Horse Slaughter in Oklahoma Legal under New Law

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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On March 29, 2013, Governor Mary Fallin signed HB 1999 into law and ended a 50-year ban in Oklahoma on slaughtering horses. The measure goes into effect on November 1. Governor Mary Fallin's action legalized the slaughter of horses so that their meat may be prepared and packaged for export.

The bill passed the House last month by 82-14, and the Oklahoma Senate passed it on Tuesday by a 32-14 vote. This will open the door for horse-slaughter statewide; however, horsemeat cannot be served or sold within the state.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has the authority to inspect any horse-slaughtering facilities in the state, but slaughterhouses must first get U.S. Department of Agriculture authorization to operate, Fallin said.

“One important fact that the public may be unaware of: is Oklahoma horses are already being slaughtered,” said Aaron Cooper, the Governor’s spokesman.” They are simply being shipped out of the country to Mexico and killed, in conditions that may be inhumane.”

Oklahoma Meat Co.’s owner and manager Ahsan Amil had already filed an application for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection services for a horse slaughter facility to be located in Washington, Oklahoma, about 30 minutes south of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, reports Food Safety News.

That is not the only application to the USDA for equine inspection services since the 5-year federal ban on horse slaughter ended in 2011, according to Food Safety News .

On November 18, 2011, the ban on the slaughter of horses for meat was lifted by President Barack Obama when he signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This followed the outcome of a government investigation that claimed the ban on slaughtering was backfiring.

The investigation found that the domestic ban had shifted the site of butchery of horses to Mexico and Canada. This resulted in increased abuse or neglect for horses shipped out of the country and beyond the reach of U.S. law, the Washington Times reported.

After the President signed the Agriculture-spending bill, the USDA said it was again ready to conduct inspections should anyone plan to open a horse-slaughter plant.

Oklahoma Sen. Eddie Fields (R-Wynona), HB 1999′s Senate sponsor, said it might take up to three years for a qualified equine-slaughter facility to be up and running in Oklahoma. He believes Valley Meat Company in Roswell, NM, will be the first operation to resume horse slaughter in the U.S.

John Murrell, a Dallas thoroughbred horse owner and breeder who fought to close the last two horse slaughterhouses in Texas, says he will continue efforts against the bill in Oklahoma, calling passage of HB 1999 a “terrible, sad day” for Oklahoma.

Only California, Illinois and Texas still have state bans against horse slaughter. Texas and Illinois were the locations of the last three horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., which were gone by 2007.


Horse meat is rarely eaten in the United States, where horses are considered companion animals and, often, pets. However, in 1915, right after WWI, the New York City Board of Health amended the sanitary code, making it legal to sell horse meat. A New York Times article at that time states, “This new meat is to be put upon the city's platter under the protection and encouragement of the Board of Health.”

During World War II, due to the low supply and high price of beef, New Jersey legalized its sale, until it was prohibited at the end of the war.

In 1951, Time magazine reported from Portland, OR: "Horsemeat, hitherto eaten as a stunt or only as a last resort, was becoming an important item on Portland table, according to Wikipeda.

As recently as 1973, when inflation raised the cost of traditional meats, Time reported that "Carlson's, a butcher shop in Westbrook, CT, that recently converted to horse meat exclusively, now sells about 6,000 pounds of the stuff a day.”

Harvard University’s Faculty Club reportedly had horse meat on the menu for over one hundred years, until 1985.

California Proposition 6 (1998) was passed by state voters, outlawing the possession, transfer, reception or holding any horse, pony, burro or mule by a person who is aware that it will be used for human consumption, and making the slaughter of horses sale of horsemeat for human consumption a misdemeanor offense.

Until 2007, a few horse meat slaughterhouses still existed in the United States, selling meat to zoos to feed their carnivores, and exporting it for human consumption, Wikipedia reports.

OPPOSITION TO HORSE SLAUGHTER IN AMERICA which opposes horse slaughter in the United States, writes, “Simply stated, if there is no easy way to dispose of unwanted horses, fewer horses will be bred. Overactive breeders are the root of the surplus horse situation devaluing the market.”

A Petition2Congress regarding the anticipated opening of a horse-slaughterhouse in Roswell, New Mexico, states, “The ‘unmanageable surplus horses’ is an artificial crisis created by the proponents to justify slaughter as ‘a necessary evil,’ but slaughter is not driven by a surplus of horses; rather it is driven by a foreign market for horse meat.”

Read also: Horsemeat in European Beef Scandal Affects Burger King, Nestle; Is U.S. Beef Safe?

Sources: Food Safety News, Washington Times, Horse Fund, Wikipedia, NY Times