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"Panelists chew on horse meat"

Testimony heard on House bill to allow sales outside U.S.
San Antonio Express-News, March 26, 2003

Austin - Sue Harris doesn't eat sushi or escargot, but she wouldn't stop anyone else from eating it, and she wouldn't stop them from eating horse meat, she told a House panel Tuesday. "Who are we to sit in judgment of people who eat horsemeat?" the Elkhart horse owner asked the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee. House Bill 1324, authored by Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, would allow meat from slaughtered horses to be sold outside of the United States. 

A 1949 state law provides criminal penalties for anyone who "sells horse meat as food for human consumption or who possesses horse meat intending to sell it as food for human consumption." The law hasn't been enforced in decades, but was upheld last year by former Attorney General John Cornyn. Lawyers for the nation's last two horse slaughterhouses, which are located near Fort Worth and east of Dallas, argue meat processing is federally regulated and the product is exported out of the country, mostly to markets in Europe. 

Dr. Steve Hicks, an equine veterinarian in Palestine, said 30,000 to 40,000 horses must be euthanized each year in Texas. Many horse owners can't afford the approximately $300 for a veterinarian to euthanize an animal and bury or dispose of it, he said. "People will allow them to die out in the pasture in pain," he said. Allowing a horse meat-processing industry in Texas would provide a humane means of killing sick and unwanted horses, and provide hundreds of jobs, he said. 

Brandy Moore, a teacher in Comanche County, said she keeps 10 horses, and the cost of euthanasia is minimal compared to the costs of a horse's care. " ... I don't make a lot of money," she said. "But when the time comes to put down a horse, I'll pay the expense." pponents of the bill said a horse meat industry would provide an incentive for horse thieves. 

That only sick and neglected horses end up as food is a misconception, they said, because slaughterhouses want healthy, fat animals.

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