Both the Oklahoma House and Senate last week approved bills to lift the state's ban on horse slaughter, making Oklahoma the first state to do so since the federal ban on funding for horse slaughter inspections was lifted in 2011.
HB 1999 and SB 375 passed with votes of 82-14 and 38-6, respectively. Both bills would allow interstate trade and possession of horsemeat, but would not allow human consumption.
State Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, sponsor of the House bill, said on the House floor that unwanted horses are a problem for Oklahoma.
"Since 2006 we've had a growing number of abused and neglected horses and we have a growing number of horses going across the border to be processed that have no standard of care," McNiel said. She explained that a glut of horses in Oklahoma requires a solution.
"It's supply and demand. We have a supply and there's a demand somewhere else for it," McNiel said.
House opponents of the bill said that some slaughterhouse conditions may be inhumane for horses, or bring a negative image on Oklahoma, as Rep. David Dank, R-OKC, argued.
"We're talking about image and I don't want people thinking about Oklahoma as the state where you slaughter horses. I think we need to take a second look at this. We need to come up with another name for it – it just sounds terrible," Dank said during floor debate.
But of those debating on the floor, more lawmakers lobbied for the bill than against.
"I have a lot stronger faith in the processing of horses in the state of Oklahoma in the United States than I do in the country of Mexico," Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, explained after complaints of horses being trucked across the border for processing.
McNiel, who closed out the discussion, backed up Renegar's comments in earlier discussion, and explained her position as both a legislator and a horse owner during debate.
"Nobody wants horses to be abused. I don't. We want the best for [animals] in life, and in after life. They have value as live animals, why can't they have value as a dead animal?"
The chambers will now consider each other's bills, while a broader U.S. audience continues to discuss the controversial issue.
To view the House discussion, click here.