Day At The Track

Governor Schweitzer's slaughter bill

12:49 AM 07 May 2009 NZST
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Governor Brian Schweitzer
Governor Brian Schweitzer

On Friday, May 1st, Governor Brian Schweitzer packed up and left his office to head for the Kentucky Derby. On his desk, he left HB 418, a bill designed to encourage the building of a horse slaughter plant in Montana! The bill was designed to lure a horse slaughter plant to Montana by effectively preventing Montana citizens from challenging such a facility in the state courts.

The Governor had initially issued an amendatory veto of the bill, pointing out that it was almost certainly unconstitutional, but the legislature sent it back to him without his suggested amendments. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Butcher, was quick to praise the Governor's act of surrender.

In an interview published in The Horse, Butcher dismissed the idea that his bill was unconstitutional. He went on to explain his misguided belief that the role of the courts is more like that of movie critics, saying, "Courts have the right to offer an opinion about legislation--they do not have the right to make law. That's the legislature's job."

Butcher has said these safeguards [taking away the access of citizens to the courts] were needed to avoid the types of legal appeals that shuttered the country's last horse slaughterhouses in Illinois and Texas in 2007.

In an earlier article "Showdown at Horse Slaughter Pass", EWA's John Holland used the metaphor that Butcher was trying to "tie the citizens of Montana to the tracks", and pondered whether the Governor would save the day. But alas, the Governor had his mind on the Kentucky Derby and left the citizens to their fate. Luckily, Butcher's bill ties them to the wrong tracks.

Although the plants were cited repeatedly for pollution, sewer and discharge violations, all three plants were shut down by state laws.

The Belgian Velda Corporation's Natural Meats plant in Saskatchewan, Canada is the most probable target of Butcher's overtures. Their operating license was indeed suspended in December over unspecified health violations but by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, not a law suit.

Since no slaughter plant can legally slaughter horses in the US for human consumption, the bill's only real impact may be the statement it makes about Montana, its legislature and its governor.

John HOLLAND

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