Chicago Daily Herald

Group: Don't kill horses for food

Posted 1/14/04

SPRINGFIELD - Appalled at the thought of horses being slaughtered for food in Illinois, a suburban animal rights group is asking lawmakers to ban the practice before it starts.

"We will be the horse murder capital of the United States," said Steve Hindi, head of the Geneva-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.

In an effort to build support for a ban, Hindi was in Springfield Tuesday with his video truck, showing scenes of horses being slaughtered on 100-inch screens.

At the heart of the controversy is a proposed DeKalb plant that would slaughter and process horses for food. A Belgian company owns the plant. Selling horse meat for human consumption is illegal in Illinois, but there's nothing to stop the slaughter and sale of the food overseas where horses are considered quite edible, garnering $15 a pound or more.

A lawyer representing the DeKalb plant could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The DeKalb plant operated for nearly 16 years before it burned down in 2002. Plans to rebuild it and resume horse slaughter came to the attention of animal rights groups who persuaded lawmakers to push a ban. But the plan stalled because a DeKalb lawmaker involved in negotiations died last fall just before it was to be debated.

"We Americans do not now, nor have we ever viewed the horse as a food animal," said Gail Vacca, who owns a horse farm near the DeKalb plant. "Horses are raised and trained for many things in Illinois, but one thing they're never raised for here is dinner."

As lawmakers return to Springfield for their spring session, supporters hope to push the ban through to the finish. Supporters said they have the votes to pass the plan.

To help efforts here, proponents have enlisted financial and lobbying support from Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois and other leaders of the Illinois horse racing industry.

Federal legislation banning horse slaughter is also being considered in Congress.