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Court rules horse slaughter illegal in Texas


New Orleans –– A federal appeals court ruled that horse slaughter is illegal in Texas, home to two of the country's three processing plants.

NEW ORLEANS –– A federal appeals court ruled that horse slaughter is illegal in Texas, home to two of the country's three processing plants.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans determined that a 1949 Texas law prohibiting horse slaughter for the purpose of selling the meat for human consumption, had not been repealed or pre-empted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act and does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause.

The ruling dissolves a preliminary injunction enacted by a lower federal court that had prevented Texas District Attorney Tim Curry, Tarrant County, from prosecuting the slaughterhouses for violating Texas code.

"Horse slaughter for human consumption under existing law is illegal. The appeals court struck down the lower court's ruling. That won't shut the plants down right away," says Mark Lutschaunig, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association Governmental Relations Division, but the slaughterhouses will have to shut down.

Both Texas plants –– Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth and Dallas Crown Inc. in Kaufman –– have shipped horsemeat abroad for human consumption since the mid-1970s. A third plant, Cavel International in DeKalb, Ill., is not affected by the decision.

"Those who want these plants to shut down should be careful what they wish for," says Charlie Stenholm, former Texas Senator and spokesman for the plants, in a statement released by the Horse Welfare Coalition. "If these plants shut down tomorrow, the nation's patchwork of horse-rescue facilities would be overwhelmed. They can barely manage to care for the approximately 6,000 horses already in the system. Adding an additional 90,000 horses every year will not result in humane treatment for horses."

The coalition says the plants will review the court's ruling and issue a statement of their intentions.

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