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Illinois legislation seeks to block horsemeat plant

By Susan Kuczka
Tribune staff reporter

February 19, 2004

A proposal that is expected to be voted on next month by the Illinois legislature could keep a horse slaughterhouse scheduled to open in April in DeKalb from operating.

The Illinois measure, similar to one before Congress, seeks to close horse slaughterhouses. Only two operate in the United States; both are in Texas and are owned by European companies.

The DeKalb plant, owned by Cavel International of Belgium, would be the third. It had been in business for about 15 years before it burned down in 2002.

Groups such as the Horsemen's Council of Illinois, a statewide lobbying and advocacy association based in Springfield, oppose the legislation, saying it would result in a glut of unwanted, often lame or aging horses. "There's not enough warehouse space available to imprison these horses, which is basically what would happen," said Frank Bowman, council president.

Supporters oppose slaughtering horses for meat, which primarily is shipped to Europe for human consumption.

"The idea that cruelty cases will increase if horse slaughter ... couldn't be further from the truth," said Dr. Lydia Gray, a veterinarian and the executive director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society based in Woodstock.

Her group contends the horses sent to slaughterhouse can suffer an unusually painful end because of procedures used to kill them.

James Tucker, the DeKalb plant manager, said he expects the new 16,000-square foot facility to open in April. If the Illinois legislation is approved and state officials attempt to keep the plant from operating, Tucker said he believes company officials would to take legal action.

"We believe [the proposed law] would be superceded by federal government regulations" that allow horse slaughtering, Tucker said.

Copyright 2004, Chicago Tribune