Horse racing
Chicago Sun Times
Anti-horse-slaughter forces get a key backer

January 1, 2004


THE ANTI-HORSE-SLAUGHTER FORCES in Illinois have received a tremendous gift in time for New Year's Day: Arlington Park chairman Richard L. Duchossois confirmed that lobbyists for his track will help to try and pass a bill banning the industrial killing of equines when the state legislature opens its 2004 session in Springfield this month.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Gail Vacca, one of the leaders of the anti-slaughter movement in northern Illinois, Duchossois wrote: ''Obviously, we are in support of this bill. ... I believe that the racetracks will operate as a unit, and we will have our lobbyists assist with the passage of the bill.

''We do not wish to have any thoroughbreds slaughtered. The story that I heard regarding the Illinois Department of Agriculture being against the bill, because this might lead to a cease in the slaughter of hogs and cattle, does not make any sense. These are two entirely different issues. It is for this reason that we are supporting the prevention of thoroughbred horses being slaughtered.''

THE ASSURANCE of support from Duchossois is a major boost to Vacca and her sympathizers, in large part because of the high cost of doing legislative business in Springfield. A recent fund-raiser near Hawthorne Race Course generated an estimated $6,500 for legal and lobbying efforts, but that was ''a mere drop in the bucket,'' according to organizer Jan Ely.

At the center of the contretemps is the reconstruction of a horse-slaughter facility in DeKalb by the Belgium-based food conglomerate Cavel International. The original Cavel plant burned down in April 2002. The new one is expected to be up and slaughtering no later than March. It is thought more than 100,000 horses were killed at the site during its 16 years of operation before the unsolved blaze.

Through the efforts of Vacca, Ely and their legislative sponsor, State Rep. Bob Molaro (D-Chicago), a proposed bill (SB 1921) came close to being made law in November. But the sudden death of State Rep. David Wirsing (R-Sycamore), a key opponent of the measure, pre-empted a final vote and forced the issue to carry over to the new legislative year