All Eyes Are on Kentucky, But Montana Is Stealing the Real Headlines

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by Fran Jurga | 2 May 2009 | The Jurga Report

Didn't we fight the Civil War over this very issue?

States' rights is an amazing aspect of the US legal and legislative system. If you are old enough, you may remember when abortion was legal in some states and not in others. Roe v. Wade made it legal in all states but not everyone wanted to accept the Supreme Court decision. And they still don't. Ditto for any number of legal decisions that are morally or ethically based.

Including horse slaughter.

As celebrities and wealthy patrons of all stripes walk the rose-strewn carpets of Churchill Downs today, the focus might be more on the safety of racing and the tragic losses of Eight Belles and Barbaro than on horse slaughter because many people think that horse slaughter is an issue that has been ruled illegal in the United States. All that is left to do is clear up the nasty detail of shipping horses to Canada and Mexico.

Just a detail, right?


A testing of the waters began in North Dakota, Arkansas, Illinois and other states this winter to see if individual states could foster horse slaughter plants as favored ag industries within their borders. Along with the quiet work of agricultural industry sub-committees was relentless publicity about horse abandonment and neglect in record numbers.

Montana is the first state to technically allow horse "processing" and whether or not a horse plant is built remains to be seen but you have now seen lawmakers and lobbyists getting a job done. It will take a lot of anti-slaughter attorneys and a lot of anti-slaughter money to undo it, if indeed it can be undone.

Or, if the anti-slaughter movement has enough attorneys, enough sympathetic judges and enough money, I suppose it could end up eventually in Washington as some sort of a Supreme Court case.

I still don't believe that there is enough money in horse meat to warrant this action and that this is the larger meatpacking industry preserving its turf from intervention, and have been all along.

Now seems like a great time to start working on a compromise between the two sides to make sure that if slaughter is to be allowed in the USA again, the transport laws will have some teeth and will be enforced, and that the horses that are sent to slaughter are sent there with the knowledge and clear intent of their owners.

I'd love it if someone like Jeanine Edwards on ESPN/NBC today looked straight into the camera and said, "Here I am at Churchill Downs, America's most famous racetrack. Statistics show that a surprisingly large percentage of the horses racing here, as at all racetracks, will end their lives before the age of six, in the chute of a horse slaughter plant."

There just aren't enough roses to cover up the truth. Listen carefully: you will be able to hear the Montana legislators laughing in the distance over the two-minute roar of the Derby crowd.