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Shielding horse processors

Montana became the first state to enact certain legal protections for developers of horse processing facilities with the passing in early May of House Bill 418. Several states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, are working on va...

Montana became the first state to enact certain legal protections for developers of horse processing facilities with the passing in early May of House Bill 418. Several states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, are working on various forms, pro and con, of horse slaughter legislation.

The Montana bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, is designed to curb the type of permitting and licensing challenges that forced closure of the last three U.S. slaughterhouses in 2007 and award attorney and court fees to plaintiffs in district court cases deemed harassing or without merit, therefore encouraging private investment in new facilities.

Butcher, who spoke on the subject to the 2009 Montana legislative session, says "Nobody's going to invest 5 (million) to 6 million in a business in Montana if they're going to be harassed."

In North Dakota, $75,000 has been authorized for a feasibility study to be conducted, beginning in July, to determine the economic viability of a horse slaughter plant in the state.

South Dakota is considering a similar study.

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These legal and investigative activities all hinge on the assumption that Congress will fail to enact proposed legislation aimed at preventing the sale, transport and slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Horse slaughter has become a hot-button issue with several state and national associations, which are urging lawmakers to take sides. The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals are running national anti-slaughter campaigns.

House Bill 503 and Senate Bill 311 are making their way through committees, while several state legislatures, including that of South Dakota, have passed resolutions urging rejection of the legislation or instructing their delegates to vote against it. The Minnesota Legislature tried but failed to pass such a resolution.

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