COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Animal protection groups are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to try to block the revival of domestic horse slaughter at commercial processing plants.
The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue of Larkspur, Colo., three other groups and five individuals filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking an emergency injunction to overturn the USDA’s recent permit approval for a horse meat plant in Roswell, N.M.
Four of the named plaintiffs are Roswell residents; the fifth lives in Gallatin, Mo., where a Rains Natural Meats equine slaughterhouse could next receive federal approval.
On Tuesday, the federal agency approved a horse slaughter plant in Sigourney, Iowa, and expects to endorse another request later this week. The Humane Society’s lawsuit named prospective processing plants in Gallatin and Rockville, Mo.; Woodbury, Tenn.; and Washington, Okla.
(Note: A 2012 bill by Rep. Andy Holt, D-Dresden, would have erected legal hurdles for any lawsuits against establishing horse slaughterhouses and included a declaration that “the General Assembly intends to encourage the location of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee that meet all sanitary, safety and humane slaughter requirements.” The measure made it to the House floor, but was never put to a floor vote.)
Horse slaughterhouses last operated in the U.S. in 2007 before Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for plant inspections. Federal lawmakers restored those cuts in 2011, but the USDA has been slow in granting permits, citing the need to re-establish an oversight program. In a written statement Tuesday, the agency said it was legally required to approve Responsible Transportation’s plant in southeast Iowa.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund has disclosed $27,475 in independent expenditures opposing Republican Frank Niceley’s campaign for the state Senate and agreed to register as a political action committee in Tennessee, an official said Monday.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said the HSLF disclosure form was received in his office Monday. He then sent an email to PAC officials advising that, as he reads the relevant laws involved, the PAC should have registered with Tennessee’s Registry of Election Finance before spending in a state legislative race.
In a prompt reply, the group promised to file the registration papers, Rawlins said, and that will conclude the matter with no further action. The failure to register seems an honest mistake that is being corrected, he said, and the PAC was obviously not trying to conceal its spending.
HSLF spokesman Dane Waters said last week that the Washington-based PAC’s attorneys thought that no registration in Tennessee was required, but that filing a disclosure report was necessary. Indeed, the report – covering the period July 25-Aug. 1 was not legally required to be filed until Oct. 10 since the spending occurred after July 23, the last deadline for disclosures before the Aug. 2 primary election.
The disclosure shows most of the money went toward direct mail pieces that attacked Niceley for legislation the group saw as supporting horse slaughter, cockfighting and “canned hunting.” The rest – $6,687 – went to pay for automated phone calls to voters criticizing Niceley on the same issues.
Niceley, who currently serves as a state representative, had estimated earler that up to $50,000 was spent by the group. He defeated three opponents to win the Republican nomination in the six-county Senate District 8 and will be unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
— Note: One of the anti-Niceley mailers is reproduced below.
While independent expenditures of out-of-state organizations may have achieved their goal in some state legislative races this summer, Frank Niceley says attacks by two Washington-based groups against him backfired and likely helped his state Senate campaign.
Direct mail attacks on Niceley by one group, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), may also have run afoul of state law. And a post card from the NRA that accused him of lying, Niceley says, has transformed him from a friend of the gun owners group to an enemy.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said the HSLF political action committee failed to register with the state as required by the law. Dane Waters, a spokesman for the group, says attorneys advised the fund that registration with the Registry of Election Finance was not required.
The mailers attack Niceley for supporting legislation to allow slaughter of horses for food, for opposing legislation to make cockfighting a felony and for supporting “canned hunting” with legislation that would allow whitetail deer farms in Tennessee.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The sponsor of a bill seeking to attract horse slaughter facilities said the bill likely will not pass this year.
Rep. Andy Holt said that chances were not good for the bill to pass, but he remained committed to bringing the industry to Tennessee.
The Senate version of the bill was taken off notice last week and Holt took it off the schedule for the House floor on Monday. He said an amendment that would require hefty deposits for anyone to mount a legal challenge to the facilities was removed from the bill, but he was also working on adding animal treatment guidelines.
“I am not into rushing stuff through,” he said. “We want to make sure all the interested parties have a chance to express their grievances with these bills.”
Holt said he wants to add protections for the horses and horse owners.
“The amendment we are working on right now actually sets up guidelines for animal treatment and for the procurement of these animals,” he said.
Holt, a Dresden Republican, has said his bill would create a humane way to cope with unwanted horses that are sometimes left to starve. But Democratic Rep. Janis Sontany of Nashville said slaughterhouses are seeking a different population of horses.
“They don’t want old or sick horses for slaughter,” she said. “They want healthy horses.”
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.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee attorney general’s opinion says a legislative proposal to require large deposits before people could mount a legal challenge to a horse slaughterhouse is constitutionally suspect.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt would require a bond equal to 20 percent of the worth of a horse slaughterhouse or processing plant from anyone filing a lawsuit against the facility.
The Dresden Republican’s bill seeks to encourage the practice of slaughtering horses in Tennessee.
Attorney General Bob Cooper writes in the opinion requested by Democratic Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar that measure would conflict with state constitutional provisions forbidding “unreasonable and arbitrary barriers” to using the courts to settle disputes.
The bill is scheduled for a full House vote on Monday.
Note: The full AG opinion is HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has yet to take a position on a bill seeking to encourage horse slaughterhouses in Tennessee.
The Republican governor told reporters after a visit to a Nashville high school on Monday that he understands that proponents believe slaughtering horses within the state is a more humane way to treat unwanted animals.
But Haslam said his administration has yet to take a formal position on the bill scheduled for a vote on the House floor Monday evening.
Opponents of the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden 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.
Holt on Monday put off a vote for three weeks.
Legislation to encourage horse slaughterhouses in Tennessee won approval of a House committee Tuesday, five months after Congress lifted what amounted to a national ban on processing the animals for food.
As introduced by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, HB3619 simply called on the state commissioner of agriculture to keep statistics on horses on a website.
As amended before approval by the House Agricuture Committee, it instead erects a legal hurdle for lawsuits against horse slaughterhouses and inserts into law a declaration that “the General Assembly intends to encourage the location of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee that meet all sanitary, safety and humane slaughter requirements.”
Under the proposed new law, anyone filing a lawsuit to challenge issuance of a permit for horse slaughter would have to post a surety bond equal to 20 percent of the estimated cost of building the facility or, if it is already open, to its operational costs.
Debate has reignited in Tennessee and elsewhere on allowing the killing of horses for human consumption after a change in a federal funding bill to permit equine slaughterhouses, reports Anne Paine. But then again, apparently nothing is going to happen at the state level. Slaughterhouses have been banned in this country because of specific wording in the federal budget each year that had forbidden the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending money to inspect the facilities. Without the USDA’s stamp of approval, such slaughterhouses cannot operate.
But the language that prevented the USDA from using any of its budget to inspect slaughterhouses was removed a few weeks ago from a funding bill that has passed, giving hope to state Rep. Frank S. Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
He says the facilities are a humane way to deal with horses that otherwise might starve or be abused. A local animal rights activist responded with outrage.
“We’re all very distressed,” said Laura Turner, a longtime Williamson County animal rights supporter.
“The U.S. taxpayers will be paying the USDA to inspect meat that will be going overseas as a high-end delicacy,” she said. “This was buried in a big omnibus-type bill.”
Niceley said the change makes sense.
“Any real horse person realizes you’ve got to have an end-of-life facility,” said Niceley, a Republican from Knoxville whose family has owned horses for more than a century.
Last year, he filed a bill to allow such facilities in Tennessee, but it failed. Even if it had passed, federal funding for the USDA inspections would still have been required.
Niceley said he’s unlikely to refile his bill because of the recent action taken on the federal level.
“I’m not sure we need it now,” he said.