HONOLULU—With one week left in Hawaii’s legislative session, constituents and organizations are going to extraordinary measures in order to get their final messages out to lawmakers before adjournment sine die.
One bill receiving an unusually high amount of attention is Senate Bill 249. Introduced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D), the measure would appropriate funds for the State to acquire the last slaughter house in operation on Oahu, run by Hawaii Livestock Cooperative in Campbell Industrial Park. If the bill is passed, this would be the only state-owned slaughter house in the nation.
Hawaii officials are looking to purchase the slaughter house with a proposed $1.6 million.
Those against the purchase argue that the State would be in direct competition with privately-owned slaughter houses on Hawaii Island, Maui, and Kauai. Those who are against slaughterhouses in general, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), say that taxpayers shouldn’t have to support the brutal treatment and killing of animals.
The majority of the animals slaughtered at the Campbell Industrial Park facility are pigs, with a much smaller amount of cows being brought in for processing.
PETA sent approximately 1,000 emails opposing the purchase to Hawaii legislators, an effort that crashed the Capitol’s server, according to Rep. Gil Riviere (R).
“At the end of March, we asked PETA members in Hawaii to contact their reps in opposition of bill 249,” Alicia Woempner, PETA special events coordinator, told The Hawaii Independent. “In April, we sent out an email regarding the issue nation wide.”
Regarding the 1,000 emails sent to the Capitol, Woempner said: “I guess [the Hawaii’s PETA members] did a good job.”
“We’ve asked people to tell their reps that as tax payers they shouldn’t have to subsidize an industry that treats and kills animals in such a terrible way,” Woempner said. “Considering Hawaii’s deficit, it’s bizarre that Hawaii has decided that the best use of State funds is to support the brutal treatment and slaughter of animals.”
Along with the State’s projected $1.3 billion budget deficit, Hawaii is making enormous cuts to teen pregnancy prevention, literacy, “homeless” organizations and other areas including pension cuts.
Woempner said the $1.6 million does not need to go toward obtaining a slaughterhouse. She added: “We encourage Legislature to support good jobs and other important issues instead of subsidizing an industry that is cruel to animals, dangerous for its workers, and leads to serious health issues in meat consumers. ... We hope Hawaii won’t be setting the president for other states that it’s acceptable to use tax dollars for subsidizing slaughter houses.”
Hawaii Livestock Cooperative has faced financial troubles since the purchase of the Campbell Industrial Park slaughterhouse in 2004 from Palama Meat Company, which had filed for bankruptcy. Hawaii Livestock Cooperative’s mortgage of approximately $1.4 million was on borderline foreclosure until the U.S. Department of Agriculture paid off the debt to Central Pacific Bank, and the State granted the company approximately $600,000 two years ago.
At a public meeting regarding farming issues, Riviere said: “My position is, if we’re going to make a go at agriculture, we shouldn’t lose the last slaughterhouse on the island.”
Russel Kokubun, chair of the Department of Agriculture, said in a March 16 letter to Rep. Clift Tsuji (D), chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, that the State’s acquisition of the slaughterhouse was important for Hawaii to increase food self-sufficiency.
The Hawaii Farm Bureau also pointed to food sustainability and food security reasons: “The Oahu facility should remain open to supply locally raised meat to people in Hawaii.”
However, the opposition to Senate Bill 249 argues that the slaughterhouse is primarily used to kill pigs brought in from the continental U.S. and overseas. A 2008 State Department of Agriculture report to the 2008 Legislature said that out of the over 15,000 pigs slaughtered in Hawaii, two-thirds are imported live from the continental United States.
“I am disturbed to hear of the State government purchasing a slaughterhouse,” said Hawaii Island resident Natasha Hill. “I strongly oppose having my tax dollars support the murder and cruelty of animals and the unsustainable manner of shipping animals oversea to Hawaii for slaughter.”
Four years ago, animal rights activists campaigned against pigs being kept in cramped, filthy containers for four-or five-day voyages from the continental United States. They pointed to public records during a one-year period showing that 1.4 percent of the pigs died during the trip, about seven times the death rate of pigs that typically die during transport from point to another in the “mainland,” according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
“We are still encouraging people to contact their representatives and let them know they do not support using tax payer’s dollars to support animal cruelty,” Woempner said.
Calls made by The Hawaii Independent to Dela Cruz’s office and the Hawaii Livestock Cooperative were unreturned at the time of publication.