Oklahoma horse slaughter bill author denies financial motivation

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NewsOK.com /Zeke Campfield | Published: March 18, 2013

Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, said she proposed House Bill 1999 to help the horse livestock economy and open up an outlet for people to dispose of their horses. Critics, however, call it a conflict of interest meant to boost finances at her grandparent’s horse auction, the largest in the state.

 

Rep. Skye McNiel

Rep. Skye McNiel

The author of a bill that would legalize horse slaughter in Oklahoma agreed it could mean monetary gain for the livestock auction house owned by her grandparents and managed by her family.

Rep. Skye McNiel said that gain would be shared equally by all the state’s horse auctioneers and is not substantial compared to the financial gain to the state’s horse owners who are seeking an avenue to dispose of animals that have lost their use.

The Bristow Republican, whose grandparents opened Mid America Stockyards in Bristow more than 40 years ago, said she proposed House Bill 1999 because she saw a problem firsthand and decided to help solve it.

“It’s no different from an attorney running a tort reform bill or a pharmacist running a pharmacy bill,” McNiel, 34, said. “I’m from rural Oklahoma and I run rural legislation. I mean, who better to understand policy than somebody who lives it every day?”

Critics of the legislation complain that, among other things, the bill presents a conflict of interest for its author. An advocacy group called Wild Horse Observers Association filed a complaint last month with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for that reason.

Law has exemption

But a state law that prohibits legislators from introducing bills that would benefit their immediate family makes an exception for legislation that “could reasonably be foreseen to accrue to all other members of the profession.”

Though Mid America could see commissions on horses sold at its biweekly auctions double or even triple should the bill become law, so too would the 11 other businesses licensed by the state to auction horses.

Patience O’Dowd, founder of the Wild Horse Observers Association, said she believes McNiel, in introducing the legislation, blatantly violated the intent of the ethics law.

“If it’s a good bill, then perhaps another legislator should bring it,” said O’Dowd, who lives in Placitas, N.M. “Usually you don’t want to even have the appearance of having an issue. If they don’t want to be squeaky clean, then maybe they shouldn’t be in that office.”

Closures hurt prices

The last domestic horse slaughter house closed in 2007, a year after federal inspections of such facilities ended. The market since has moved to neighboring countries, Mexico and Canada.

More than 18,000 horses were shipped from Oklahoma to Mexico for slaughter last year, according to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Terry Crawford, legion executive officer for the Oklahoma Livestock Marketing Association, said the slaughter house closures meant higher freight costs to ship horses abroad.

 

Prices for horses sold at Oklahoma auctions subsequently were reduced to 30 cents per pound from as high as a dollar per pound previously, Crawford said.

Effect on auctions

Sloan Varner, McNiel’s brother and an auctioneer at Mid America, the largest horse auction in the state, estimated as many as two-thirds of the 5,000 horses sold there in a typical year are sent to slaughter houses.

But the family has no way of knowing for sure what happens to the horses they sell, Varner said.

“It’s not our business what they do with them,” he said. “All of the guys that buy slaughter horses also buy riding horses, and sometimes they buy horses intended for slaughter that they go out and fool with and sell back to somebody who intends to ride.”

Varner said a horse sold at Mid America today fetches about 25 cents per pound — or about $250 for an average 1,000-pound horse — compared to about 80 cents per pound before the 2007 slaughter house closures.

The company collects a 6 percent commission on each horse sold, he said.

If 5,000 horses are auctioned in a year, weighing an average of 1,000 pounds, Mid America could expect to collect about $75,000 in annual commissions on horse sales.

Were prices to increase under McNiel’s legislation to pre-2007 days, the company could make as much as $240,000 commission on horse sales in a year’s time.

If a slaughter house opened in Oklahoma, those numbers likely would be substantially higher.

Legislator’s interest

McNiel said neither she nor her husband has any ownership stake in Mid America, nor do they intend to.

She said she worked full-time at the auction house until she was about six months’ pregnant with her oldest daughter, now 10, but now only checks in horses during auctions every other Monday night and serves food in the cafeteria on Fridays.

McNiel said her experiences in livestock auctioning give her a firsthand understanding of the issues faced by those who work in the industry.

“I see the problem of the abused, abandoned, starved horses, and I see what it does when our sheriff has to pick up those horses and quarantine for 30 and 60 days — it’s taxpayer dollars,” she said.

“And I see when people have nowhere to go with their horses but just to turn them out or cut fences and put them into somebody else’s pastures. I understand this issue maybe more than anybody else.”

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
22 Comments
  • AnneMH

    “It’s no different from an attorney running a tort reform bill or a pharmacist running a pharmacy bill,” McNiel, 34, said. “I’m from rural Oklahoma and I run rural legislation. I mean, who better to understand policy than somebody who lives it every day?”

    You are a disgrace to your state. And the monetary gain you and your family will reap from the blood of horses is precisely what makes you unfit. There is no humane way to slaughter horses – the method designed for cattle, the only method used on them, is ineffective. They are ripped apart alive and conscious. How about doing the humane thing and imposing breeding restrictions on your precious breeders? Oh, wait, you wouldn’t make as much money if you did that? Get out!

    March 18, 2013
    • Ranching Cowgirl

      AMEN !

      Well stated!
      Skye you should be ashamed!

      March 18, 2013
  • AnneMH

    Also, I’m sick and tired of the excuse that slaughter houses will take all these thin horses starving in pastures. It’s a myth. Slaughter houses want fat healthy horses; they turn away the thin ones. Starving a horse is a crime, and should be reported. All slaughter does is enable the breeders who get in over their heads in their pursuit of monetary gain. Many of the large seizures of malnourished horses in this country come from breeders. Do something about it, and address the problem at its source.

    March 18, 2013
    • Debra Gordon

      I am sickened that so many people don’t understand the details, don’t understand how they are being taken for fools, and don’t understand the horror being done to these horses.The people pushing for it are all out for personal gain, and it should be illegal, and they should be prosecuted.

      March 19, 2013
  • Marcia

    He isn’t it in for financial reasons?! Give me a break. If he’s interested in doing good works, then let him support you and other rescue groups.

    March 18, 2013
  • Ranching Cowgirl

    Wow more Bull Sh@# from a politician!

    I just left OKLAHOMA it is the dirtiest, trashiest State in our nation.
    There is trash and litter from one end of the state to the other. Do you really believe they care about any thing except money? NO way they don’t even care about the state they live in!
    Skye you should be ashamed. SHAME on you and your political agenda!

    March 18, 2013
    • Beth

      I am a resident if Oklahoma and we DO care very much! Sorry you saw lots of trash and yes in spring it is always windier and trash seems to blow every where. However there are lots of people who care deeply about horses and all animals. There are also people in power in every state who are there for their own gain. We who are against horse slaughter are hoping to make a difference. Maybe you’re sweeping generalization is a bit unjust.

      March 18, 2013
      • Debra Gordon

        Beth, it is not meant to hurt your feelings or those of all the good people in Oklahoma. The anger this issue whips up stirs many generalizations that can’t be helped, given the sweeping governmental collusion that appears to be rampant especially in the Republican party. In Oklahoma, there must be many people who love horses, but they need to get really loud, right about now.

        March 19, 2013
      • Ranching Cowgirl

        Beth: I am sorry if that hurt your feelings but honestly refrigerators and old dishwashers don’t blow in the wind. I drove from one corner of the State across the entire state to Miami OK. Taking freeways and back roads and toll roads. I saw not just trash bags, bottles and cans, but down right household garbage. I saw several mattresses and refrigerators & dishwashers dumped along the sides of the roads.Gee really sorry but that did not blow there. I have never seen so much garbage in my life in one state! I am sorry if that hurt your feelings but it was an HONEST observation. I also did not see and “Litter fine signs”.??????

        As to the slaughter issue YOUR REP should be ashamed she is motivated by money and to say this is for the old and weak is pure BS. It is money motivated plain and simple.

        Now to Debra Gordon are you saying I am a Republican because I generalized about trash? WOW talk about GENERALIZING! I guess that means your a raciest Liberal? LOL
        WOW how small can you get this is about the slaughter of innocents. Have you ever held a child while their money hungry parent sold their injured horse to the killer?
        Well I have and I know people that lost horses stolen right out of their back yards only to find one at a slaughter yard the rest dead!! Horse slaughter is monetarily motivated not for the poor innocent animal to be put out of it’s misery. It is wrong and OKLAHOMA should be ashamed.
        If you live in Oklahoma FIGHT AND BE HEARD! Don’t expect someone else to speak up for you. Stand up and be heard. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue and to call it such is a travesty.
        This is a moral issue!

        March 21, 2013
        • Debra Gordon

          Ranching Cowgirl, I absolutely did not label you because you are a Republican or Democrat. In government, (all) politicians are motivated by money, and it feels like the Tea Party Republicans IN GOVERNMENT OFFICE will do everything to cut all programs for all people EXCEPT for the programs that affect their corporate sponsors. The horse slaughter issue is a truly bi-partisan issue, and I am on YOUR side. I am angry that this issue has any ground. I agree this is a moral issue, I agree wholeheartedly. Please forgive me if I did not phrase my anger appropriately. It is beyond me how anyone can be for this horrific idea, and it is beyond me how we let the BLM (we as a nation) give the ranching community so much control by doing all the wrong things. We are on the same side, and I am just as angry as you are. I don’t care what political bent you are, lobbyists for certain people have gained purchase in this fight, and that sickens me.

          March 28, 2013
    • Cuttin Around.

      Ranching Cow. I doubt you hit EVERY dirt road in Oklahoma and seen the trash you are speaking of. Every State as problems with people dumping garbage unlawfully, not just Oklahoma. As you know or should know that the wind in Oklahoma is always blowing, plastic bags, plastic bottles all get blown around, hung on barbwire fences making it look bad. My State has litter crews in every County, walking the roads and picking up trash. I understand you just left Oklahoma.. probably a good thing, and now we can say that Oklahoma is a little less trashy.

      March 29, 2013
  • Marge Mullen

    Spot on and it proves the point that the American people are sick and tired of a few abusively vocal, special interest driven politicians attempting to shove their distorted and whacked agendas up our collective behinds without even the courtesy of asking us to bend over, enough is enough.

    March 18, 2013
    • Ranching Cowgirl

      Marge:
      RIGHT ON!
      WOW your so right on!!!!!!
      We need to fight side by side and get rid of these WHACKED agendas and take our Country back!

      Enough is ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!

      March 21, 2013
  • linda spinazzola

    you are a disgrace to every woman! you make it so apparent that you are also NOT a woman of GOD.. or a believer!you also INSULT us by thinking that WE are so stupid as to believe you are not doing this for MONEY!! YOU LIE worse than our politicians!it is a sad day in this country..when terrorists, convicts, illegals, and pedophiles,get more compassion and mercy, than our elderly, poor, and animals! WE the LEGAL tax-payers..want you to BAN the slaughter of OUR HORSES! you will get kickbacks from meat co. rich cattlemen, who want tax-payer land for their cattle! who will get those jobs? only the ILLEGALS who will do anything for a dollar! and future serial killers who get pleasure from torturing, and killing animals painfully! and let’s not forget your land..the bacteria and bugs that will accumulate from the blood run off..and decaying bones! WE AMERICANS DON’T EAT HORSES!! so who benefits? YOU! i will pray for you..and your family..GOD help them if this is how you wish to treat animals…i can only imagine how cold heartedly you raised your family! may GOD help you!

    March 18, 2013
  • Sue Wallis Lies

    Yep, mouthing the same old platitudes all PSA’s do. She probably learned it direct from Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis. They are surely hand in glove. After all Wallis’ group United Horsemen offered a free lunch on the 14th to all who attended their little slaughter party. Oh, excuse me, Wallis is no longer affiliated with them, conflict of interest. Just like Skye whose trying out a bit of blue sky on Oklahomans.

    March 18, 2013
  • Arlene

    OKLAHOMA also not the most intelligent State either !!!!! Should have talked to Illinois, they are still cleaning up the awful mess after the closing of their Slaughter Plant !!!!!!!!

    March 18, 2013
    • linda spinazzola

      it’s still not too late! please start an avalanche of emails….faxes…phone calls…get family and friends and force their hands… WE TOGETHER CAN DO THIS!!!!! POWER OF THE TAX_PAYERS!!! c’mon people! start a revolution! you don’t want your state filled with more low lives.. future serial killers… dangerous diseases and bacterias… they will poison all of you for the mighty dollar! get mad! and kick some politician butt!!!!!!! let’s get’em!!!!!!!! we have the spirit of GOD with us through these amazing creatures!!!!!!

      March 18, 2013
      • Arlene

        Dear Linda You are so right ,but careful what you say on computer , there are more here then just us !!!!!!

        March 19, 2013
        • Ranching Cowgirl

          AMEN to that!

          March 21, 2013
  • Barbara

    I smell “Wallis stench” all over this and the woman who introduced this horrible bill is just another of her puppets. They pushed this through so quickly that no one had a chance to protest! You good people of OK must rise up now and contact your governor. This cannot be allowed to go through. A way to dispose of their horses? They have that now — it’s called “euthanasia”. If they don’t want to euthanize their animal, they can simply take it to auction. That has ALWAYS been an option!

    March 19, 2013
    • Debra Gordon

      Barbara, you are so right. It must have been so tantalizing for Slaughterhouse Sue to wave the dollar signs in front of people, tempting them to pass this slaughter option. Some people really show they are out for the money, and call themselves into the light as just low, abusive, and cruel to animals, people. Not noble, not clean. Hurtful abusers of those who cannot defend themselves.

      March 19, 2013
  • Outraged Oklahoman

    Disgusting and greedy! Don’t pretend that you care about these innocent, healthy horses that you want to torture and butcher for profit. You and the governor, farm bureau, legislators pushed this barbaric slaughter bill through so fast and secretly that Oklahomans didn’t have a chance to protest. Shame on all of you! No one with a heart and a sense of decency and morality could create and pass such a disgusting, brutal piece of legislation. You pro-slaughter/torture people don’t represent Oklahoma or Oklahomans. You put your selfish, brutal greed above the welfare of the citizens of Oklahoma,our horses, our environment, and our state. You bring shame and disgust to Oklahoma and it’s people. You and your pro-slaughter/torture group need to be VOTED OUT ASAP. What kind of low-life scum could torture and butcher an innocent, healthy horse? Horses are not FOOD!!! Come to your senses before you destroy our horses, our environment and entire state! Sue Wallis, you are an abomination if you are behind all this horrific torture/slaughter serial killing legislation. STAND UP Decent people everywhere! URGE your Federal reps to co-sponsor the SAFE Act. Let’s STOP this massacre from happening!! Don’t let a few greedy, rotten apples ruin our state and massacre our horses!

    April 4, 2013