The Montana House of Representatives strongly endorsed a bill Feb. 24 that paves the way for construction of a horse slaughterhouse in Montana and aims to bring the industry back to the United States.
Backers said ranchers and those who own horses have been struggling ever since the slaughterhouses in the country were closed down. They said it is far more difficult now to dispose of old, sick, or injured animals.
“This bill is really providing a humane and regulated processing plant,” said the sponsor, Republican Rep. Ed Butcher, a horse owner from the central Montana farm community of Winifred. “Demand is there. We want a humane way to address the problem.”
The measure was endorsed 67-33 in the first of two scheduled House votes. If it passes again Feb. 25 as expected, it will go to the Senate for more hearings and votes.
Butcher said his bill gives investors assurance Montana will treat their businesses fairly if they build in the state. He was backed by agriculture interests on both sides of the aisle.
Cavel International Inc. shut down its DeKalb, Ill., operation after the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 upheld an Illinois law prohibiting slaughter of horses for human consumption. Opponents argued that a horse slaughterhouse should not be granted special exemptions from environmental and other laws, and should be treated like any factory.
Democratic Rep. Sue Malek said animals should be more justly treated. “We need to care about animals and be responsible owners,” she said.
In 2007, when state-imposed bans closed the last three U.S. horse slaughterhouses, a record 78,000 horses were exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics compiled by the Humane Society of the United States.
Nancy Perry, the Humane Society’s vice president for government affairs, has said horses are particularly ill-suited for traditional slaughterhouses. The animals are likely to try to escape the kill box and the procedure for killing them can be disrupted.