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Horse law could nip Fallin’s re-election bid 

Capitol Report, Wayne Greene / TulsaWorld.com / March 31, 2013

greene-wayneOKLAHOMA CITY – House Bill 1999 – the one that would legalize horse slaughterhouses in Oklahoma – is the sort of visceral, divisive issue that newspapers love and politicians hate.

Education policy or infrastructure repair or workers compensation reform might matter more in the long run, but none of those have the ability to capture the passions of the people like HB 1999.

Just ask the crew in charge of Gov. Mary Fallin’s voice mail system, which was being kept perpetually clogged last week with people wanting to talk horse meat with the state’s chief executive.

Under the cover of Good Friday, Fallin signed the proposal into law, so starting Nov. 1, it will be legal to butcher horses in the state for the export market.

To the agriculture interests in the state Capitol, it was about solving a real problem – abandoned, aging horses with no end market.

Oklahoma horses were already being taken to slaughter, they pointed out, in Mexico. The law simply would allow the state to control the process.

But more important to a lot of the people I talked to were the underlying issues of liberty, property and the rural way of life.

No one can tell an ornery Oklahoma rancher what he can and can’t do with his horse, up to and including killing it for some Frenchman’s meal.

Outlawing horse slaughter is the thin end of the wedge that will eventually result in a ban on rodeo and laws against quail hunting, or so the reasoning goes.

To the opponents of the bill, it was about social norms.

We don’t kill horses for dinner for the same reason we don’t send children to work in coal mines or condone dog fights. Some things are just plain wrong.

To this crowd – mostly urban and not familiar with the ways of the farm – the thought of someone eating Flicka is repulsive, offensive, on par with a meal of boiled puppy or sautéed bald eagle.

The only reliable polling on the issue suggests that there are a lot more people in Flicka’s corner, despite the big majorities that HB 1999 got in virtually undebated consideration in the House and Senate.

By a ratio of 2-to-1, a scientific telephone poll of likely voters found opposition to equine slaughter.

You have to wonder how much Gov. Fallin is ready to own this issue.