NORMAN — Whether Oklahomans support or oppose the slaughter of horses in the state depends upon which polling data you believe.
Results of two polls released over the weekend provide conflicting information.
The SoonerPoll conducted by Bill Shapard indicates that two-thirds, or 66 percent, of Oklahomans object to a horse slaughter facility operating in Oklahoma.
However, another poll conducted by a company named Protect the Harvest of Iowa concludes that only one out of three (36 percent) remains convinced that horses should not be slaughtered in Oklahoma.
The survey indicated that when those being polled were informed that major agricultural groups support a horse processing facility in Oklahoma, nearly two out of three respondents agreed.
Results of that survey are available at The McCarville Report website.
The survey by SoonerPoll.com released Sunday was commissioned by national animal rights groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Currently, no horse slaughter houses are operating in the United States.
Those opposed fear that horses from many other states could end up being sent to Oklahoma for slaughter.
Regardless of what the polls show, both houses of the state legislature have already approved measures to legalize horse slaughtering for the first time in the last 50 years. Legislation is being strongly supported by Republicans and rural Democrats.
Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously supported legislation that would allow a horse slaughter facility. The Republicans are counting on support from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.
In Texas, a horse slaughter facility operated in the small town of Kaufman for several years. The plant was opened in 1986. In August 2005, the Kaufman City Council voted unanimously to enforce violations and shut the plant down, due to environmental concerns such as improper handling of sewage.
Concern in the Cleveland and McClain county areas grew when it was discovered that an application for such a facility to be located in the small town of Washington had been filed with federal authorities. However, it appears that no action has been taken on the application filed in July with federal authorities, whose approval is necessary.
Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, is sponsoring House Bill 1999, which would allow horses to be slaughtered in Oklahoma for their meat. Pending legislation says that horse meat would not be processed for consumption in Oklahoma or the United States.
Several European countries process horse meat for human consumption.
McNiel, a Bristow Republican, said last week that urban voters do not understand the needs of rural Oklahoma. These horses are old and feeble or abandoned by their owners. Her legislation is supported by major farm groups including the Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and the pork council.
Opponents say horses are intentionally being overbred in Oklahoma, producing excessive numbers of horses, while just a few ever are good enough to become racers.
They say many of these young horses are intended to be slaughtered.
Tracey Williamson, of Norman, who raises horses, said that more than 90 percent of those going to slaughter are young horses, while proponents insist these horses are intended to go to slaughter houses.
Williamson is afraid that if a law is passed, it will result in the theft of horses in Oklahoma so they can be slaughtered.
Currently, about 22,000 horses are shipped annually to slaughter houses operating chiefly in Mexico, with some in Canada. Both sides agree that slaughtering methods conducted in Mexico are inhumane, but there is no concensus about whether operation of a slaughter horse in Oklahoma is a viable option.