OKLAHOMA -- Both the Oklahoma House and Senate have approved a bill to allow horse slaughtering in the state, sparking a heated debate statewide.
Today the bill moves another step closer to law -- and overturning a 50 year ban on horse slaughters in Oklahoma.
Tuesday, the Senate voted to pass House Bill 1999. Now the measure goes to Governor Mary Fallin, who has indicated she will sign the bill.
There are many people on both sides of the fence when it comes to slaughtering horses in the state.
It's been five decades since horse slaughtering was legal in Oklahoma, but State Representative Skye McNeil is one lawmaker who says it's time to bring slaughtering back, to get horses that are old, abandoned or dying out of the pastures, and sell their meat overseas.
"These horses have a value as a life animal, they are very well cared for. There's no reason they shouldn't have a value after their usefulness is over." McNeil said.
But some horse owners worry horse slaughtering will only cause problems.
"You would just want to hope that people would take care of their horses and it not have to come to that," horse trainer Jackie Rollins said.
Jackie Rollins has been around the business since she was eight years old. She says she knows horses can be an expense, but she has never thought of slaughtering as the answer.
"If we get more responsible breeding in place and people take more responsibility for their horses, this wouldn't happen," Rollins said.
But slaughtering is happening. According to USDA figures, just last year more than 166,000 U.S. horses were shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for food. Supporters of the bill say shipping them to other countries is an inhumane process.
"We need to be protecting those 160,000 horses, by having regulated facilities in the US that are USDA regulated," McNeil said.
Rollins believes opening the doors to slaughter houses will lead to an increase in horse theft, and an assembly line from those who solely want to make a profit.
"My main concern is the production of horses just for that and people collecting horses just to slaughter them. You know, putting them on a spring pasture and letting them fatten and taking them to slaughter in the summer," Rollins said.
At this point -- no one has requested a permit for a horse slaughter plant in Oklahoma.
If passed, the law would allow slaughtering beginning November 1st, but would continue the existing ban on the sale of horse meat for consumption in the state.