AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House on Tuesday took a first step toward banning commercial horse slaughter for consumption by humans.

The House voted 94-49 for a bill, LD 1286, that would make any commercial horse slaughter for human consumption illegal in the state. The legislation also would ban the construction and operation of horse slaughtering facilities and make it illegal to transport horses through the state for the purpose of slaughtering them if the final intent is to have humans eat horse meat.

The bill faces additional votes in the Senate and House before it would head to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage.

“If not for a horse, would Alexander have been the Great? Would Paul Revere had spread the word? Can you imagine the Lone Ranger on the back of a cow?” said Rep. Lisa Villa, D-Harrison. “I would dare say they are very different from your average livestock.”

The bill would make horse slaughter a civil violation. Offenders would have to pay fines between $500 and $1,000.

Rep. Donald Marean, R-Hollis, said the bill is unnecessary. There’s no evidence that horse slaughter is a problem in Maine, he said.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, who proposed a similar bill two years ago that died before it reached the House floor. During a public hearing on the bill in April, Knight said Maine has become a prime route for transporting horses into Quebec, where they’re slaughtered. From there, the horse meat is often sent to Europe and Asia, he said.

If the horse slaughter ban becomes law, Maine would join California, Illinois, Texas and other states that have similar bans in place, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.

The Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, which represents owners of standardbred horses, opposed the ban on horse slaughter during the bill’s public hearing.

While the measure before the Legislature wouldn’t prohibit an owner from euthanizing his or her horse at the end of the animal’s life, a statewide ban on slaughter could complicate owners’ efforts to end their horses’ lives humanely, said Brenda Deojay, who serves on the association’s board of directors.

“When slaughter is not allowed in a particular area and there is still a need to do something with the animals,” she said, “the conditions are sometimes worse for the horse, or they’ll end up still being taken someplace where they can be slaughtered.”

Deojay said association members are also trying to address the issue by raising money for horses’ long-term care after their years on the track.

BDN Newsroom Administrator Natalie Feulner contributed to this report.