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Animal rights advocates join forces to challenge pending legislation

COM-Humane Lobby Day-Photo1

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and The Oklahoma Alliance (OAA) for Animals invite their members and supporters to participate in the Sixth Annual Humane Lobby Day on Thursday, March 7 at the State Capitol.

The event will be held in the second floor Blue Room, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma State Director HSUS said, “Humane Lobby Day is a wonderful opportunity for citizens from around the state to meet face to face with their elected officials and to share their views about pending legislation impacting animals in Oklahoma.”

A briefing will prepare each participant to better advocate for policies that will curb and end acts of cruelty toward animals.

“Humane Lobby Day participants can be instrumental in helping to oppose legislation that would pave the way for opening a horse slaughter plant in Oklahoma, defend against legislation that may weaken Oklahoma’s animal cruelty statute, and urge passage of legislation that would create minimum standards and oversight for animal shelters,” said Armstrong.

Based in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals’ goal is to bring together the people and resources needed to overcome pet homelessness, abuse and neglect.
“OAA is excited to be part of HSUS’s Humane Lobby Day,” said Jamee Suarez-Howard, OAA’s Founder and President. “We hope that we can encourage many animal advocates to join us to learn about the important issues concerning animals and how important their voices are.”

Two bills the groups are watching closely are House Bill 1999 and Senate Bill 375.

In 2011, Congress restored funding for US inspectors to oversee horse slaughter, paving the way for slaughter and processing to resume for the first time since 2006.

Armstrong said, “Oklahomans overwhelmingly oppose these two dangerous bills that would pave the way for a horse slaughter plant to open in our state. Beyond the undeniable, horrible cruelty of the horse slaughter industry, this legislation causes tremendous damage to the image and reputation of Oklahoma as a horse ‘friendly’ state.”

HB 1999, introduced by Rep. Skye McNiel, (R-Bristow), would allow horse slaughter but would continue the existing ban on the sale of horsemeat for consumption in Oklahoma. The bill recently passed the House Public Health Committee on an 8-2 vote.

“My bill will allow for horse processing to be done in Oklahoma and for the meat to be shipped to where there is a market,” said McNeil. “Horses would be processed identical to cattle using federal guidelines.”

Authored by Sen. Mark Allen, (R-Dist. 4), SB 375 would revoke the state’s 1963 law banning the sale of horse meat and allow the operation of horse slaughterhouses in Oklahoma.

“Horses are being turned out because people can’t feed them,” said Allen. “To avoid prosecution they’ll turn their horses out into open land and river bottoms. The drought is a problem because hay got so high. They’re making biofuel out of feed so that drives up feed prices. This bill gives horse owners another option to dispose of horses.”

Armstrong disagrees. “These horse slaughter plants are little more than a door mat for a foreign owned, profit driven business who have no interest in addressing the root cause of the problem –overbreeding,” she said.

With more than 1 million supporters, the ASPCA is the first humane organization to be granted legal authority to investigate and make arrests for crimes against animals.

Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations said, “Horse slaughter is inherently cruel, as well as hazardous to Oklahoman communities and hapless consumers. The passage of SB 375 and HB 1999 would enable foreign-owned companies to set up slaughter plants in Oklahoma, which are likely to cause severe pollution to local waterways by overloading sewage systems.”

“Horses are not raised for food and their flesh is laden with toxic chemicals routinely included in de-wormers, fly treatments and medicines that are given daily to horses on the track, in the show ring, and on the ranch. This inhumane treatment is out of step with the values of Oklahomans,” said Perry.

Armstrong added, “In the words of Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman Texas (the home of the last horse slaughter plant in America), there are significant additional reasons for opposing a horse slaughter plant in your community: ‘These horse slaughter plants drained our resources, thwarted economic development and stigmatized our community.’

To make a reservation to attend the Humane Lobby Day event, contact Cynthia Armstrong at [email protected]

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