By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of a state Senate proposal that seeks to encourage the commercial slaughter of horses in Tennessee withdrew the measure Wednesday, but said he likely will revive it if a similar bill makes progress in the House.
Republican Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport took the legislation off notice in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee. A House floor vote on the companion bill has been delayed until Monday evening.
Faulk said the proposal is intended to encourage Tennessee to develop rules and regulations in case a commercial slaughter operator wants to locate in the state and “properly, humanely … dispose of horses.”
“I don’t care for the notion of a horse slaughter plant,” he said. “But it’s one of those parts of the cycle of life that is necessary. As repugnant as it may seem to someone who has a horse that is a pet, the fact of the matter is, that animal is eventually going to die.”
Opponents of the bill argue that it would unfairly discourage legal challenges of horse slaughter or processing plants by requiring plaintiffs to submit a deposit worth 20 percent of the facility’s worth.
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued an opinion earlier this month that requirement is constitutionally suspect. He said the measure would conflict with state constitutional provisions forbidding “unreasonable and arbitrary barriers” to using the courts to settle disputes.
Rep. Janis Sontany has been a vocal opponent of the legislation. The Nashville Democrat said she doesn’t believe it has the votes in the House, where it was delayed three weeks.
She said she’s concerned the company that would come to Tennessee might be foreign and have “no regard for our environmental health or workplace safety laws.”
“It’s breed for greed,” Sontany said. “As long as we have a horse slaughter plant in Tennessee we’re going to see between 80,000 and 100,000 horses come through our state to be slaughtered. We don’t want that.”
As for sponsors’ contention that the process is a humane way to dispose of horses, Sontany said an alternative is responsible breeding.
“It’s just like with dogs and cats,” she said. “We have an over population of dogs and cats simply because we have breed for greed and irresponsible owners. That’s actually what it is here.”
Read SB3461 at http://capitol.tn.gov.