Slaughterhouse ban gains political backing

October 2, 2003  Chicago Sun-Times


THE HAY-ROOTS MOVEMENT to prevent the rebuilding of a horse slaughterhouse near DeKalb has suddenly picked up an important ally in Springfield. And Hawthorne-based thoroughbred trainer Jan Ely is a key reason why.

State Rep. Bob Molaro (D-Chicago) announced Wednesday that he will introduce a bill that would bar the slaughter of horses in Illinois during the November veto session of the state legislature.

IN A STATEMENT released by his Southwest Side office, Molaro said: ''It's illegal to consume horse meat in America, but how do we condone killing these animals for consumption in Europe? I intend to pass legislation that will stop this before it gains a foothold in Illinois.''

Molaro's plan came after a 90-minute meeting between his staff and Ely on Tuesday. The veteran trainer and colleague Gail Vacca have emerged as two of the leaders of an effort to stop the reconstruction of a Cavel International slaughterhouse near the campus of Northern Illinois University.

CAVEL HAD BEEN operating the facility for 17 years before a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the plant on Easter weekend 2002. Officials of the Belgian-owned concern announced rebuilding plans earlier this year and have received all necessary building and special-usage permits from city and county officials to proceed.

Cavel spokesman James Tucker has indicated that the facility is expected to be in operation by late winter.

BUT ELY, VACCA and associates are committed to stopping the rebuilding. A candlelight vigil Saturday in DeKalb drew almost 100 protesters. Attendant media coverage brought the matter to the attention of Molaro.

Now, says Ely: ''At least the matter will be a priority in Springfield in short order. There is also federal legislation pending that could impact the only other two remaining slaughterhouses in the United States, both of which are in Texas. I only hope that some unanticipated political undertow doesn't thwart Rep. Molaro's courageous initiative next month.''