Thursday, January 25, 2007

Horse Slaughter Plants in Texas Must Follow Ruling and Be Closed

Excellent to see that this is progressing. We’ll see though if it continues. We wrote initially about this issue earlier. To read about this monumental decision see:


Judges: Plants must be closed

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Two North Texas horse-slaughtering plants, which annually process thousands of pounds of horsemeat for human consumption overseas, are violating a 1949 state law and must shut down, a federal appeals court panel has ruled.

Fort Worth-based Beltex and Kaufman-based Dallas Crown could face criminal charges if they don't cease operations, according to the ruling handed down Friday by three judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The two plants handle about half of the 91,000 horses slaughtered in the United States annually.

"The lone cowboy riding his horse on a Texas trail is a cinematic icon," Judge Fortunato Benavides wrote. "Not once in memory did the cowboy eat his horse, but film is an imperfect mirror for reality."

The companies will appeal, their lawyer, David Broiles of Fort Worth, said Saturday.

Broiles called the suit "an attempt to impose some people's dislikes on a commercial activity."

The Humane Society of the United States, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief, praised the ruling.

"This is the most important court action ever on the issue of horse slaughter," Wayne Pacelle, the society's president and chief executive, said in a statement. "When this ruling is enforced, a single plant in Illinois will stand alone in conducting this grisly business."

The background

The stage was set for the case in 2002 when then-Attorney General John Cornyn ruled that the horse-slaughtering plants were violating a 1949 state law that makes it illegal to sell horses for human consumption.

Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Curry's office contacted Beltex officials. About the same time, the Kaufman County District Attorney's office announced it was investigating Dallas Crown.

At the time, the two companies operated the only horse slaughterhouses in the United States; a third plant has since opened in Illinois, Broiles said.

Beltex and Dallas Crown went to federal court, seeking an injunction protecting them from prosecution by the district attorneys.

Their position is that Texas law doesn't apply to them because the horse meat for human consumption is sold exclusively overseas. They also argued that, under the U.S. Constitution, only the federal government regulates interstate and foreign commerce.

U.S. District Judge Terry Means in Fort Worth ruled in the companies' favor. Friday's ruling overturns Means' decision.

The economic impact

Beltex, with 90 employees, earned $30 million from horse-meat sales in 2001, the company said in its suit.

In addition to selling horse meat, the company sells the hides, which are made into such things as baseball covers and material used in heart surgery and violin bows. It also provides horse meat to zoos, including in Fort Worth and Dallas, and to circuses and to entertainers Siegfried & Roy.

The opposition

In a friend of the court brief filed in the 5th Circuit appeal, the Humane Society of the United States claimed that many of the animals slaughtered in the plants were still useful.

Also, the Humane Society said, the companies put to death about 2,500 wild horses collected on federal land between 1999 and 2005. The government is supposed to put the horses up for adoption, but many of the adopters sold to middlemen who then sold them to the plants, the Humane Society said.

The society also claimed that some horses were transported in low-roofed trucks designed for pigs and cattle, which caused the horses to bow their heads. Also, the horses sometimes panicked during shipping, trampling each other and arriving at the plant with broken bones.

One the legislative front

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would make it a federal crime to slaughter horses for human consumption, is making its way through Congress. Separate versions of the bill were introduced in the House and Senate this month.

The House passed similar legislation in September, but the Senate never voted on it. Time ran out before the end of the 2006 legislative session.

What's next

Broiles said the companies can ask the three-judge panel to reconsider the decision or he can ask for a hearing before the full circuit court. The companies can also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We'll go to one or all of them," he said.

This story contains material from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News Service.

No comments:

Search for More Content

Custom Search
Bookmark and Share

Past Articles