House debates horse slaughter

5:17 PM, Apr 4, 2011   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- How can a horse be put to death? That's the question being debated in the Maine legislature.  The Friends of Animals organization thinks the practice of shipping horses to slaughterhouses in Canada is inhumane and wants the practice stopped.

They submitted a bill last week with Rep. Gary Knight of Livermore Falls, a Republican who calls himself a "lover of animals." The bill would have changed the status of horse from livestock to pet and created a number of problems for horse owners, such as increased taxes, licensing and exposure to significant penalty for violation of new laws.  Knight and FOA have since withdrawn much of the bill, but are standing fast on shipping horses to slaughter.

The Friends group is singling out Hemphills, a multi-service horse farm in Vassalboro.  Brenda Hemphill acknowledges that they do ship horses to slaughterhouses because customers want them to.  She says the practice is humane and that there are inspectors "here, at the border and at the plant" in order to make sure that the process is done correctly.

The Friends group contends that, unlike cows, pigs and chickens, horses are not bred for consumption.  They want to develop a system of rescues that would place horses or take care of those that are not wanted.   For the occasional horse that simply must be put down, the FOA supports anesthetization by a veterinarian with the carcass being composted or buried.

Opponents say that's no more humane that the current practice.  They also say that some horse owners couldn't afford the cost of professional anesthetization and burial of a horse.  They also point out that many people do not have the land on which a horse could be composted or buried.

Knight says he plans to meet this week with representative from the Maine Harness Horseman's Association and The Department of Agriculture to see if some compromise could be reached.


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