Horse slaughter ban rejected Actress's activism upsets some legislators
By Leslie Hague Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - A horse slaughter plant in DeKalb will be allowed to re-open, after legislation to ban horse slaughter was voted down on Friday.

Animal rights activists had been pushing the plan, saying that horses hold a higher place in American society than other animals.

"Cattle and pigs are bred to be slaughtered," said state Rep. Bob Molaro, a Chicago Democrat and the plan's sponsor. "We don't breed horses to be slaughtered. We use them not only as companion animals, but animals that serve us."

The legislation targeted Cavel International's plant in DeKalb which is planning to re-open after a fire. The plant ships horse meat overseas for human consumption, but does not sell it domestically.

Opponents of the legislation said it was "anti-agriculture" and hurt the economy in the DeKalb area.

In a raucous debate, several members said they were offended that the driving force behind the ban was actress Bo Derek, who came to Springfield last week to lobby the legislation. The legislation was faltering - it had already fallen short once in the House - when Derek lobbied senators, who passed the measure the same day. Derek caused a stir in Springfield, appearing at a reception, signing autographs and posing for pictures for lawmakers all while lobbying for the horse slaughter ban.

"I find insulting that we're now governing by celebrity," said state Rep. Charles Morrow, a Chicago Democrat. "If that's the case, I could get Halle Berry to come down here and lobby on the behalf of a dollar-an-hour increase for home-care workers. ... For 10 years, I've been trying to get a dollar-an-hour increase for home-care workers."

He added that in the final days of session, lawmakers should be focusing on needy people in their districts before animals.

"I've got seniors eating cat food," he said. "Maybe they ought to eat a horse. If you can eat Bo Peep, Bugs Bunny and Bambi, why can't you eat Mr. Ed?"

The proposed ban was voted down 51-60.

Derek's visit was paid for by Arlington Park, which supported the ban. "We're sent down here to represent our district," said state Rep. Jim Sacia, a Pecatonica Republican. "Not to do what Bo Derek tells us to do." Molaro defended Derek's activism.

"Bo Derek, like anyone else, has a right to come here and advocate her  position," he said. "And I think she should."

Molaro added that Derek, who lives in California, had not lobbied at House committee meetings. Noting that in the Senate, where Derek had testified, the plan passed with votes to spare, he said it might have been a mistake not to do the same in the House.