A federal appeals court ruled Jan. 19 that horse slaughter is illegal in the state of Texas. It overturned a lower court decision that invalidated a 1949 Texas law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.
If the law is enforced, two of the three slaughter plants in the United States will be shut down: the Dallas Crown slaughter mill in Kaufman and Beltex in Fort Worth. The third slaughter plant is run by Cavel International in DeKalb, Ill.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans found that the law stood on its own merits and was still enforceable. This negated a federal district court ruling in 2006 that said the law was invalid because it had already been repealed by another statute and pre-empted by federal law.
"The lone cowboy riding his horse on a Texas trail is a cinematic icon," wrote Judge Fortunato Benavides in the ruling. "Not once in memory did the cowboy eat his horse."
A major concern by those who oppose banning slaughter is the placement and care of horses that would have been headed for that fate. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100,800 horses were slaughtered in the three foreign-owned slaughter houses last year.
On Jan. 17, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate simultaneously introduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would prohibit horse slaughter for human consumption. In 2006, the bill passed the House by a vote of 263-146, but was not acted upon by the Senate before it adjourned for the year.