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Montana horse slaughter bill becomes law

HELENA, Mont. (AP)--Legislation to allow investor-owned horse slaughterhouses in Montana and limit opportunities for legal action against them became law on April 30, after Gov. Brian Schweitzer neither signed nor vetoed the measure.

April 30 was the deadline for Schweitzer to act and, with no action by him, House Bill 418 automatically became law.

The bill includes some protection against court injunctions that would stop or delay slaughterhouse construction. The measure sponsored by Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, aims to limit the kind of legal challenges that forced the last U.S. slaughterhouses, which were in Illinois and Texas, to close in 2007.

During the 2009 legislative session, which ended April 28, Schweitzer rejected the limit on legal action. He said it would strip people of appeal rights important in environmental protection. The Legislature then rejected the changes Schweitzer wanted.

Butcher said during the session that the governor's amendments would make the bill "an empty shell because nobody's going to invest five to six million in a business in Montana if they're going to be harassed."

Schweitzer has said that as an owner of livestock and horses, he supports the humane processing of horses to produce meat for human consumption.

His communications director, Sarah Elliott, issued a terse statement April 30, saying only that "the governor made his opinion on this bill known, the Legislature did the same. No action was taken and the bill has now become law."

The bill brought lawmakers and the governor a flood of e-mails and telephone messages, from across the country, in support of the legislation and against it.



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