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Maine House Approves Bill to Ban Commercial Slaughter of Horses
06/11/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

There was some emotional debate in the Maine House today as lawmakers voted in favor of a proposal to ban the commercial slaughter of horses for human consumption. The bill also prohibits the transport of horses through the state if they're on their way to be slaughtered for human consumption - an important provision for animals rights activists, who point out that roughly 1,500 horses per year are transported through Maine to slaughterhouses in Canada. Tom Porter reports.

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For some lawmakers, horses are not just a type of livestock, but loyal companions who have helped humans throughout history.

"If not for a horse, would Alexander have been 'The Great?' Would Paul Revere have spread the word?" asked Democratic Rep. Lisa Villa, of Harrison, who spoke in support of the measure. "We've heard stories of horses at work on the farm, at war, at play, in film and in books. Can you imagine the Lone Ranger on the back of a cow?"

"They don't come into this world to be slaughtered for human consumption, as beef cattle do," said independent Rep. James Campbell of Newfield. Campbell says for many people, horses become virtual family members, much as pet dogs and cats do.

And the bill's sponsor, Republican Gary Knight of Livermore Falls, says the proposal is not only about protecting much-loved animals. "It isn't just an emotional issue," Knight said. "There really is a medical concern that brings this bill before us today."

Knight says the consumption of horse meat puts human health in jeopardy. "It has been documented that 118 different drugs have been found in racehorses, some of which have been moved through the state of Maine," he said. "Most of these drugs cause different types of cancers in humans, and also various medical problems, again in humans."

But one opponent of the measure described the debate as "an emotional roller coaster, short on facts."

"The horse industry in Maine is very, very concerned about the accusations that are being imposed upon us here," said
Republican Rep. Donald Marean, a veteran horsebreeder from Hollis. Marean says while he personally would not slaughter horses, people should have the freedom to make that choice.

"Horses are livestock," Marean said. "Livestock are animals that live on the farm. We should not be taking away one's choice to do with as they want with their livestock, providing that it's done properly."

The original measure proposed an outright ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Democrat Brian Jones from Freedom said that would have been a problem for many of his constituents, who raise horses for their own consumption.

"My citizens are the working poor - the working poor," Jones said. "And to remove their right to raise and slaughter these ruminants, equines, as a part of their sustenance, denies them of their very existence."

The amended bill, which removed the ban on slaughter of horses for personal consumption, passed 94 to 49. If it becomes law, it would incur civil fines of between $500 and $1,000.


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