SANTA FE, New Mexico — A panel of House lawmakers on Monday tabled a measure that would prohibit the slaughter of horses and the transportation of horse meat in New Mexico if it's intended for human consumption.
The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee took up the measure along with a proposal that called for adding horses to the state's animal cruelty law. That proposal was also tabled.
The sponsor, Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, told the committee there are ways other than slaughter to address horse overpopulation. She pointed to limiting breeding, expanding shelters and boosting adoption opportunities.
"I realize we have a very difficult problem in our country, and I am interested in seeking some solutions to the problem," she said.
Animal Protection New Mexico and other animal advocates have been working to stop horse slaughter in the state. They acknowledged that a federal spending ban on inspectors has effectively put the brakes on the possibility of any horse processing plants opening in New Mexico, but they said legislation would solidify the state's position.
Supporters of the bill pointed to a handful of other states that have already banned horse slaughter.
Opponents argued Monday that the population is out of control and that it's cruel to leave starving horses on the landscape to suffer. They also said banning slaughter would lead to enforcement challenges for state livestock officials.
Although the legislation would include $100,000 each year for enforcing the provisions of the proposal, opponents said that would not be enough to tackle the problem.
Questions were also raised about what the state would do with horses seized as a result of the ban and whether it could afford legal fees related to any challenges.