Maine Bill Would Ban Slaughtering Horses for Meat


Portland Press Herald , May 1, 2013, Eric Russell

It would also ban the transportation of horses through Maine to be slaughtered in Canada, but similar bills have failed twice before.


Maine Rep. Gary Knight

Maine Rep. Gary Knight

AUGUSTA – A bill to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption and ban the transportation of horses through Maine to be slaughtered in Canada drew support from animal rights activists but opposition from many other groups at a public hearing Tuesday.

L.D. 1286, sponsored by Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, and Rep. Elizabeth Dickerson, D-Rockland, now will be scheduled for a work session and vote in the Agriculture, Conversation and Forestry Committee, but its fate is uncertain. Similar bills have been defeated in each of the last two legislatures.

In introducing the latest bill, Knight said Maine has become a “funnel for horse slaughter” to Canada, where the meat is processed for sale in Europe and elsewhere. He said an estimated 1,500 horses are sent each year through Maine to Canada to be killed, although it’s not clear how many of those horses originated from Maine stables.

Knight said he wants Maine to stop being a thoroughfare for horses sent to die, but he also wants to prevent a slaughterhouse from opening in this state.

The U.S. banned slaughterhouses for horses in 2007 after the Department of Agriculture ran out of money to pay for inspections. Last year, however, the department resumed inspections, allowing slaughterhouses to open. Since then, some states, including New Jersey, have passed laws to ban horse slaughter.

“Horse slaughter is not something we want and not something we want to be complicit in,” Knight said.

Representatives of many groups, though, including the Maine Farm Bureau Association, the Maine Veterinary Association and the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, said the bill plays on the emotions of animal rights activists without addressing equine welfare.

“This tries to fix a problem that hasn’t been proven to exist,” said Wendy Ireland, executive director of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association.

Janelle Tirrell, an equine veterinarian speaking on behalf of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, said the bill could end up doing more harm than good if it forces horse owners to keep infirm horses alive or if it forces them to do their own slaughtering.

“There are fates worse than slaughter,” she said. “I see them every day.”

Tirrell said many horse owners simply don’t have the means to keep the animals alive or to euthanize and bury them.

Kathy Wilson, who owns a Brunswick pet store, said she thinks opening a horse slaughterhouse in Maine would be a good idea because horses would not have to travel so far to meet their deaths. She said supporters of the bill might mean well but shouldn’t put horses on the same level as dogs and cats.

“Horses are livestock, not household pets,” she said.

Animal welfare groups, led by the Maine Friends of Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said slaughtering horses is inhumane in almost all circumstances. Furthermore, supporters of the bill argued that horses are not raised for consumption and are often treated with drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The bill as drafted would make it a Class C felony for any violations to the law. Some who testified Tuesday saw that provision as overly punitive.

CONTINUED – READ MORE at the Portland Press Herald

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Mary Anne Gardner

    Way to go Gary Knight!!

    May 1, 2013
  • Arlene

    A Huge Bravo for Gary Knight !!!!!!!!

    May 1, 2013
  • Daryl

    Mr. Knight you are right, no slaughter plant to be open in your state, no horses sent to slaughter plants any place, no transporting of horses through the state to go some where else to be slaughtered. this Wilson person needs to make a trip to a slaughter plant and see what is done to these animals, how it is done, smell the oders, hear the crys of the animals, watch little babies cut out of the mothers and thrown on the floors to die. Can you tell you children or grand children this is best for the horses? I think not lady. Slaughter is not the answer to what to do for these animals. Many a horses was stollen out of a pasture to be taken to slaughter because it was legal to take them and get rid of them this way, and get money for them, money in the pocket. Do you know what kind of people work in these slaughter houses? Not the kind you want to live next door to you or your family , people with out feeling, or enjoy hearing an animal cry out. Go see it and them make a commet.

    May 1, 2013
  • maine resident

    Yes, I do this this is a good measure. It also is my understanding that horse slaughter is not humane. The pet store owner from Brunswick may be more familiar with dogs and cats. However, there are many horse owners who regard their animals as pets and companion animals. As to the vet’s comments, I have no doubt that she has seen cases of severe abuse. But the answer is not to send the animals to slaughter. The state could do a better job of identifying abuse cases and educating people about horse overpopulation. When residents learn about the extent of the overpopulation and abuse problem, more private resources would become available for investigation of potential abuse or neglect and fostering of these animals.

    May 2, 2013