Chicago Sun Times

Slaughterhouse issue back to the forefront

December 15, 2003


THE ANTI-HORSE-SLAUGHTER BRIGADE at Hawthorne Race Course is about to get a nice holiday boost. Organizers have announced that a special fund-raiser to benefit the group's legal and lobbying efforts will be held Saturday night at the chummy After the Races pub across from the west end of the Stickney spa.

The affair will be held under the aegis of the Illinois chapter of the National Horse Protective Coalition. That's the association that has been pursuing national and regional initiatives to ban the killing of horses for commercial purposes.

THE CAMPAIGN has crescendoed in Illinois in recent weeks because of the decision of Cavel International -- a Belgium-based food conglomerate -- to rebuild a horse slaughterhouse near DeKalb.

When the facility burned to the ground 19 months ago, it was one of only three such death factories in the United States. The other two remain up and chopping in Texas.

THE ANTI-SLAUGHTER GROUP appeared well on its way to getting the Illinois state legislature to pass a bill banning such killing at the short fall-veto session last month in Springfield. But days before the measure was to be called for a final vote, a key opponent -- State Rep. David Wirsing (R-Sycamore), whose district includes the Cavel site -- suddenly died.

Republican supporters of the bill indicated to sponsoring legislators that they would likely decline to vote for the bill during a mourning period for Wirsing. Prime sponsor State Rep. Bob Molaro (D-Chicago) then decided to hold the proposed new law until the legislature's next regular session begins in January.

IN THE INTERIM, the construction of the new Cavel slaughterhouse has continued. The plant is expected to be in full operation within weeks. That's one reason the anti-slaughter contingent is welcoming the opportunity to keep its momentum alive with the fund-raiser.

Said trainer Jan Ely: ''We're trying to generate more funding for our lawyers and for the lobbying efforts we must strengthen and continue in Springfield. The impression I get is that Cavel is planning on going ahead and reopening and then trying to stymie any new law in Illinois in the courts. This struggle is not going to get any easier.''

TICKETS FOR the fund-raiser cost $10 and include free beer, buffet, music, door prizes and other hi-jinks. Post time is 6 p.m. After the Races is located at 3638 S.Laramie in Cicero.

Supporters who will be unable to attend may still forward contributions to the National Horse Protective Coalition, c/o The Horsemen's Bookkeeper, Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie, Cicero, IL 60804.