"Oklahoma livestock and wildlife producers respect and care for animals," said Oklahoma Farm Bureau president Mike Spradling. "This legislation provides a humane solution to the challenge of abandoned, abused and otherwise neglected horses."
State Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, authored the bill and spoke confidently in the bill's potential.
"I have said repeatedly that when all the facts regarding this issue are on the table and our lawmakers are educated on this issue, they will find that this bill is a much more humane way to treat these animals, to manage the population and to control the neglect that we are seeing when irresponsible owners decide they can no longer take care of their horses," McNiel said.
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HB 1999 does have its detractors, namely animal rights groups, who refute the idea of slaughter as an answer to abuse.
"In Oklahoma – as in other states – abuse is tragically common among horses that are reaching the end of their natural lives. Many horses are abandoned or left to starve to death. Others are shipped out of the country, many to Mexico, where they are processed in potentially inhumane conditions that are not regulated by the U.S. government.
"Unfortunately, the 2006 federal ban on horse processing plants has made this situation worse. After the implementation of that ban, the Government Accountability Office reported a 60 percent increase in abused, neglected and starved horses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also noted that over 166,000 horses were sent to Canada and Mexico for processing just in 2012. These animals traveled long distances, in potentially inhumane circumstances, only to meet their end in foreign processing plants that do not face the same level of regulation or scrutiny that American plants would.
"Those of us who care about the wellbeing of horses – and we all should – cannot be satisfied with a status quo that encourages abuse and neglect, or that rewards the potentially inhumane slaughter of animals in foreign countries.
"For that reason, I have today signed HB 1999, which would allow the humane, regulated processing of horses. This bill strictly prohibits selling horse meat for human consumption in Oklahoma.
"My thanks go out to the many horse owners, farmers and ranchers, animal lovers and concerned citizens who have contacted me regarding this issue. I appreciate the willingness of so many individuals and groups to get involved and engage their elected officials. My office diligently worked to ensure input from all sides of the issue was carefully considered during the consideration of this bill. I appreciate and support the efforts of those who have expressed a desire to donate land, money and resources to provide for abandoned horses. I believe the direction pursued by the Oklahoma Legislature, in a bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans and passed by large margins, is both practical and humane."
"There are currently no processing facilities in the state. Should there ever be a processing facility planned, my administration will work with the Department of Agriculture to ensure it is run appropriately, follows all state and local laws, and is not a burden or hazard to the community. It's important to note cities, counties and municipalities still have the ability to express their opposition to processing facilities by blocking their construction and operation at the local level."