OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's 50-year-old ban on horse slaughtering was lifted Friday when the governor signed a new law that will allow facilities to process and export horse meat, despite bitter opposition by animal rights activists.

Supporters argue that a horse slaughtering facility in Oklahoma will provide a humane alternative for aging or starving horses, many of which are abandoned in rural parts of the state by owners who can no longer afford to care for them. Gov. Mary Fallin also noted that horses are already being shipped out of the country, including to facilities in Mexico, where they are processed in potentially inhumane conditions.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 166,000 horses were sent to Canada and Mexico last year alone.

"In Oklahoma, as in other states, abuse is tragically common among horses that are reaching the end of their natural lives," the Republican governor said. "Those of us who care about the wellbeing of horses – and we all should – cannot be satisfied with a status quo that encourages abuse and neglect, or that rewards the potentially inhumane slaughter of animals in foreign countries."

She noted that law strictly prohibits the selling of horse meat for human consumption in the U.S.

Similar efforts are under way in other states, but not without controversy. In New Mexico, a processing plant has been fighting the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than a year for approval to convert its former cattle slaughter operation into a horse slaughterhouse. In Nevada, state agriculture officials have discussed ways to muster support for the slaughter of free-roaming horses, stirring protests.

The Oklahoma legislation received bipartisan support and was approved by wide margins in both the state House and Senate. It also was backed by several agriculture organizations including the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association and American Farmers.

But animal rights groups fought hard against the plan, including the Humane Society of the United States. Cynthia Armstrong, the organization's Oklahoma state director, said she was disappointed.

"It's a very sad day for Oklahoma and the welfare of the horses that will be exposed to a facility like this," Armstrong said. "It's very regrettable."

In addition to animal welfare concerns, opponents have said slaughtering horses for human consumption could pose a threat to human health and safety. American horses are often treated with drugs and medications that are not approved for use in animals intended for food.

Horse slaughter opponents are pushing legislation in Congress to ban domestic slaughter, as well as the export of horses to other countries for slaughter. Many animal humane groups and public officials are outraged at the idea of resuming domestic slaughter. But others – including some horse rescuers, livestock associations and the American Quarter Horse Association – support the plans.

They point to a 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that shows horse abuse and abandonment have been increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for federal inspection programs in 2006. They say the ban on domestic slaughter has led to tens of thousands of horses being shipped to inhumane slaughterhouses in Mexico.

Although there are no horse slaughtering facilities in Oklahoma, the Humane Society said the USDA has received an application for horse slaughter inspection permits from a meat company in Washington, Okla., about 40 miles south of Oklahoma City.

Fallin said her administration will work with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to ensure that any horse meat processing plant in the state is run appropriately, follows state and local laws, and does not pose a hazard to the community. The law takes effect Nov. 1.

"It's important to note cities, counties and municipalities still have the ability to express their opposition to processing facilities by blocking their construction and operation at the local level," the governor said.

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  • 10. Alaska

    List and captions courtesy of<a href="http://api.viglink.com/api/click?format=go&key=1fd204d8792518e336580cc72b47c06b&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2F2012%2F12%2F27%2Fanimal-cruelty-laws-2012-aldf_n_2316950.html%23slide%3D1916276&v=1&libid=1361811364918&out=http%3A%2F%2Faldf.org%2F&title=Animal%20Cruelty%20Laws%3A%20ALDF%20Ranks%20States%20By%20Abuse%20Regulations&txt=Animal%20Legal%20Defense%20Fund&jsonp=vglnk_jsonp_13618115109463"> Animal Legal Defense Fund</a>.

  • 9. Utah

  • 8. Hawaii

  • 7. New Jersey

  • 6. Wyoming

  • 5. New Mexico

    <a href="http://aldf.org/custom/rankings/ALDF2012USRankingsReport.pdf">ALDF Overview: Why These States Made the “Worst Five” List</a> <blockquote>Felony provisions available only for cruelty and fighting against select animals   Inadequate felony provisions for neglect; none for abandonment   No provisions for sexual assault Inadequate definitions/standards of basic care   No increased penalties when abuse is committed in the presence of a minor or involves multiple animals No provisions for veterinarians or other select non‐animal‐related agencies/professionals to report suspected animal abuse   No duty for peace officers to enforce animal protection laws   Humane officers lack broad law enforcement authority Inadequate cost mitigation & recovery provisions for impounded animals   No restrictions on future ownership or possession of animals following a conviction   No statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals   Inadequate animal fighting provisions  </blockquote>

  • 4. South Dakota

    <a href="http://aldf.org/custom/rankings/ALDF2012USRankingsReport.pdf">ALDF Overview: Why These States Made the “Worst Five” List</a> <blockquote>No felony animal cruelty, neglect or abandonment provisions   Inadequate definitions/standards of basic care   No increased penalties for repeat animal abusers No increased penalties when abuse is committed in the presence of a minor or involves multiple animals No mandatory forfeiture of animals upon conviction No provisions for veterinarians or other select non‐animal‐related agencies/professionals to report suspected animal abuse   No duty for peace officers to enforce animal protection laws   Humane officers lack broad law enforcement authority Inadequate cost mitigation & recovery provisions for impounded animals   No restrictions on future ownership or possession of animals following a conviction No mental health evaluations or counseling for offenders   No statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals   Inadequate animal fighting provisions</blockquote>

  • 3. Iowa

    <a href="http://aldf.org/custom/rankings/ALDF2012USRankingsReport.pdf">ALDF Overview: Why These States Made the “Worst Five” List</a> <blockquote>Ag gag law Felony provisions available only for cruelty against select animals and fighting Inadequate definitions/standards of basic care   No increased penalties for repeat animal abusers No increased penalties when abuse is committed in the presence of a minor or involves multiple animals No mandatory forfeiture of animals upon conviction No provisions for veterinarians or other select non‐animal‐related agencies/professionals to report suspected animal abuse   No duty for peace officers to enforce animal protection laws   Humane officers lack broad law enforcement authority Inadequate cost mitigation & recovery provisions for impounded animals   No restrictions on future ownership or possession of animals following a conviction   No statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals   Inadequate animal fighting provisions</blockquote>  

  • 2. North Dakota

    <a href="http://aldf.org/custom/rankings/ALDF2012USRankingsReport.pdf">ALDF Overview: Why These States Made the “Worst Five” List</a> <blockquote>Ag gag law No felony animal cruelty, neglect, abandonment, or sexual assault provisions   Inadequate definitions/standards of basic care   No increased penalties for repeat animal abusers No increased penalties when abuse is committed in the presence of a minor or involves multiple animals No mandatory forfeiture of animals upon conviction No provisions for veterinarians or other select non‐animal‐related agencies/professionals to report suspected animal abuse   No duty for peace officers to enforce animal protection laws   Humane officers lack broad law enforcement authorityPage 18 Inadequate cost mitigation & recovery provisions for impounded animals   No restrictions on future ownership or possession of animals following a conviction   No mental health evaluations or counseling for offenders   No statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals   Inadequate animal fighting provisions</blockquote>  

  • 1. Kentucky

    <a href="http://aldf.org/custom/rankings/ALDF2012USRankingsReport.pdf">ALDF Overview: Why These States Made the “Worst Five” List</a> <blockquote>Felony provisions available only for cruelty and fighting, both against only select animals   Inadequate definitions/standards of basic care   Principal protections apply only to select types of animals   No felony provisions for neglect or abandonment   No provisions for sexual assault No increased penalties when abuse is committed in the presence of a minor or involves multiple animals No court‐ordered forfeiture provisions Veterinarians are prohibited from reporting suspected cruelty or fighting   No provisions for select non‐animal‐related agencies/professionals to report suspected animal abuse   No duty for peace officers to enforce animal protection laws   Humane officers lack broad law enforcement authority No cost mitigation & recovery provisions for impounded animals   No restrictions on future ownership or possession of animals following a conviction   No mental health evaluations or counseling for offenders   No statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals   Inadequate animal fighting provisions</blockquote>  

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