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January 23, 2007

Federal Appeals Court Rules Horse Slaughter Illegal In Texas

On Jan. 19, a federal appeals court ruled that horse slaughter is illegal in Texas, a state that is home to two of the nation’s three processing plants.

A decision issued by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, La. overturned a lower federal district court’s ruling on a 1949 Texas law that banned horse slaughter for the purpose of selling the meat for food.

The lower court said the Texas law was no longer applicable because it had already been repealed by another statute and pre-empted by federal law. A panel of three judges on the 5th Circuit disagreed and said the law stood on its own merits and was still enforceable.

“The lone cowboy riding his horse on a Texas trail is a cinematic icon,” Judge Fortunato Benavides wrote in Friday’s ruling. “Not once in memory did the cowboy eat his horse.”

The Dallas Crown Inc. in Kaufman, Texas and Beltex Corp in nearby Fort Worth, both foreign-owned companies, are the two plants affected by the ruling.

Kaufman Mayor Paula Bacon was pleased with the decision. “This business has not been a positive for our community at all,” she said “To have state law finally enforced and to have this business close its doors for good is fantastic news.”

The owners of the two Texas plants are considering whether to challenge the federal appeals court ruling.

Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, a spokesman for the plants and a coalition of about 200 organizations seeking to preserve the option for humane slaughter of unwanted horses, said Jan. 21 that the companies are considering their options, including the possibility of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Those who want these plants to shut down should be careful what they wish for," Stenholm said in a news release issued by Common Horse Sense. "If these plants shut down tomorrow, the nation's patchwork of horse rescue facilities would be overwhelmed. They can barely manage to care for the approximately 6,000 horses already in the system."

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Horse Slaughter