Horse slaughter

April 6, 2004


There are times when you want to throw your hands up and whinny.

This is one of those times.

The controversy over passage of the Horse Slaughter Bill, which would have banned the slaughter in Illinois of horses for food, resulted in my office being flooded with e-mails -- and the bill going into the ether.

A handful of angry readers wanted to turn me into cattle feed.

A deluge pleaded for the bill's passage before the horse slaughter plant re-opens in DeKalb in a week.

Forget it.

The reality: The bill was postponed and will probably never see the light of day because powerful lobbies have convinced sympathizers it is the humane thing to do. The weak "Willies" in the House are unwilling to unbend . . . despite being deluged with protests.

"I have heard from 10 to 12 state reps -- those who voted 'no' or weren't there for the vote last week -- who have told me if the bill comes back to the House, they would vote 'yes' on it," said state Rep. Bob Molaro, the bill's sponsor.

"But they would like it to be passed in the Senate first."

*Fact: The chances of it passing the Senate are slim.

*Fact: More than 49,000 horses were slaughtered in the United States last year at two foreign-owned slaughter houses. They were killed for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Tens of thousands more were exported live and slaughtered abroad. Word is many of these horses are young and in great shape.

*The big question: Will House Speaker Mike Madigan call the bill out of postponement before horses are led to slaughter in DeKalb?

It comes down to this. If this is a question of humanely disposing of unwanted horses, let's deal with it humanely.

Horses should not be slaughtered for human consumption -- even if the tables upon which they'll be served are in Europe and Asia.

The argument that horses are grain-fed like cows, which are slaughtered, is weak.

Horses have a more intimate contact with humans than cows and many of them are old or discarded pets.

If it is illegal in this country to slaughter dogs and cats for food, why not horses? It's the age-old story of how we deal with animals we deem less than us.

I am reminded of an essay by Henry Beston titled "Outermost House."

In it Beston states: "We need ... a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.

"We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err.

"For the animal shall not be measured by man.

"In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.

"They are not brethren, they are not underlings. They are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."

So let me track this horse imbroglio: We pet them, ride them, work them, groom them, even love them. And then we -- eat them!

Is eating those who trust us regarded as a delicacy?

Think about it.