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Nation's Highest Court Ends Legal Battle Over Horse Slaughter in Texas



Nation's Highest Court Ends Legal Battle Over Horse Slaughter in Texas
United States Supreme Court Rejects Final Appeal by Texas Horse Slaughter Industry

(May 22, 2007)-Today, The Humane Society of the United States, which has been campaigning to ban the slaughter of American horses for export for human consumption, hailed a decision yesterday by the United States Supreme Court denying the horse slaughter industry's final appeal of a federal appeals' court ruling upholding a Texas ban on the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.

The slaughter plants had claimed that the Texas law at issue was somehow unconstitutional or preempted by federal law, arguments that were quickly brushed aside by the Fifth Circuit in its January opinion. The Supreme Court's denial of the plants' petition renders the Fifth Circuit's decision final.

"This is the end of the line for the horse slaughter industry in Texas," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president for The HSUS. "With the Illinois legislature shutting down the only other horse slaughterhouse in the country, this ruling turns all attention to Congress and the need for the swift passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act to put an end to the export and grisly slaughter of our horses in Mexico and Canada."

Facts:

* The criminal code of Texas has long prohibited the sale or possession of horse meat, but the law has never been enforced.

* According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100,800 American horses were slaughtered in three foreign-owned slaughter houses in 2006. Another 30,000 were sent to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

* Opponents of the slaughter ban argue the practice constitutes a humane way to kill old animals, but investigations by The HSUS show cruelty and abuse throughout the process. USDA statistics show that more than 92 percent of horses slaughtered in the U.S. are not old and infirm but in good condition.

* A bill introduced in the U.S. Congress would ban the slaughter of American horses nationwide and prohibit their export for slaughter in other countries. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) introduced the bill (S. 311) in the U.S. Senate, and Reps. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced H.R. 503 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

* The measure received tremendous bipartisan support in the 109th Congress, winning a vote of 263 to 146 in the House. It stalled in the Senate in late 2006, however, and was not brought up for a vote before Congress adjourned, even though a similar effort had been overwhelmingly approved by the Senate in 2005.

* Nearly 70 percent of Americans are strongly against the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas.

Timeline:

* In 2002, responding to citizen and local government concerns about the two foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the state - Dallas Crown in Kaufman and Beltex in Fort Worth - then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn issued a written opinion that the 1949 Texas law applies and may be enforced.

* In response, the Tarrant County District Attorney attempted to enforce the law, but last year a federal district court in Texas ruled

that the law was repealed by another statute and preempted by federal law.

* The District Attorney appealed that decision last year, and The HSUS filed an amicus brief in the case in March 2006.

* In January 2007, a unanimous, three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the law, flatly rejecting

the slaughterhouses' arguments that the ban on the sale of horsemeat does not protect horses from theft and abuse, and that regulating horse slaughter can achieve those same purposes, noting instead that "it is a matter of commonsense that...alternatives...do not preserve horses as well as completely prohibiting the sale and transfer of horsemeat for

human consumption."

* In March 2007, the entire Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the slaughterhouses' petition for full court review,

effectively closing the two Texas horse slaughter plants.

* March 29, 2007- A federal district court ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horses destined for

slaughter at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering operation in the United

States. The order was stayed pending appeal, allowing Cavel to temporarily reopen.



The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization - backed by 10 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- On the web at HumaneSociety.org.



PHOTO: Keith Dane, HSUS' equine protection person, with one of the horses, Beyonce, that was rescued from an Illinois slaughterhouse.

Photo Courtesy of The HSUS.

 

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