“Animal welfare advocates left exasperated with Proposition 6, a law that has done nothing to stop California horses from ending up on foreign dinner plates.”
In 2014, Billy Ray Brown Jr, a prolific livestock dealer on the west coast, was charged with buying two old rodeo horses in California, and shipping them to Washington state before selling them to be slaughtered across the border for human consumption.
The case was expected to have far-reaching implications. It was the first time in its 18-year history that someone had been charged under Proposition 6 – an obscure California law intended to crack down on horse slaughter. And the time and resources that the local sheriff’s department had dedicated to the case was unusual for an investigation involving livestock.
But at a preliminary hearing for the case this month, the charges against Brown were dropped, leaving animal welfare advocates exasperated with a law that has done nothing to stop California horses from ending up on foreign dinner plates.
“Tons of horses are crossing the border every week for slaughter. This was the one chance to hold someone accountable,” said Caroline Betts, a University of Southern California professor, and founder of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue. “I think this will embolden California horse traders. They’ve been getting away with this stuff for 18 years. The law’s well written, but with zero enforcement, it’s meaningless.”
No horses have been legally slaughtered for human consumption in the US since 2007, when the last operating horse slaughterhouse in Illinois was closed down. An effective federal ban on commercial horse slaughter – which essentially pulled funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants – put the brakes on an industry already on the decline. In 1990, nearly 350,000 horses were slaughtered in the US for consumption. By 2006, that number was a little over 100,000.