DeKalb Daily Chronicle
October 22, 2003

Horse-slaughter bill won't affect Cavel's decision

By Chris Rickert - City Editor

DeKALB - A bill proposed to ban horse slaughter in Illinois will have no effect on a local horse slaughterhouse's decision to rebuild its plant after it burned down on Easter Sunday last year.

"We don't think that that's vital legislation," said James Tucker, controller with Belgium-based Cavel International, which is rebuilding its facility at 108 Harvestore Drive.

House Bill 3845 is sponsored by south suburban Chicago Democrat Robert Molaro. It would ban the slaughter of horses and export of horse meat for human consumption. It is already illegal to sell the meat in the United States.

Cavel is one of three horse slaughterhouses in the United States - the other two are in Texas - that export horse meat overseas, where some consider it a delicacy.

Tucker said his company sees Molaro's bill "as a first step in an attack on the meat industry."

Neither of the DeKalb area's state representatives, Republicans Dave Wirsing and Brad Burzynski, said they would support the legislation.

"It's a job issue. It's an issue of keeping a company viable in this district," Burzynski said.

Wirsing was doubtful it would get a hearing in the General Assembly's six-day veto session that begins Nov. 4.

"It's got to go through the House, it's got to go through the Senate, and it's got six days to do it," he said.

As to the bill's prospects once it does enter the legislative process either this session or in the regular session that begins in January, Wirsing said it's a "little too early to tell, perhaps."

Molaro campaign worker Greg O'Malley, who helped craft the bill, said that while Cavel is a long way from his boss' district, "the issue here supersedes local geography."

He said Molaro's interest in the humane treatment of animals began about a decade ago when the legislator worked on a bill to outlaw private hunting farms. Molaro himself was not available for comment.

O'Malley claimed that not only are horses often killed inhumanely at slaughterhouses, the slaughterhouse owners often buy horses from brokers who obtained them by misrepresenting to sellers what will happen to the animals.

Tucker has repeatedly denied that his company engages in any questionable business activities and emphasized that his is a highly regulated industry, with requirements that the U.S. Department of Agriculture closely monitor horse slaughter.

The city of DeKalb has already issued a permit to Cavel to rebuild its plant, and city officials have shown no inclination to alter that ruling in the face of lobbying by animal rights groups.

The original plant burned down on March 31, 2002. The cause of the fire was never determined.

Tucker said last month that, once rebuilt, the plant would provide about 40 jobs.

Jobs, specifically the potential loss of them, were among the reasons Wirsing and Burzynski are opposed to Molaro's bill.

"Well, the jobs haven't begun yet and they've been out of work for 17 months," O'Malley argued.

No one has signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill, but O'Malley said no one was asked to. He said the bill would be Molaro's "No. 1" issue this veto session.

Federal legislation to ban horse slaughter has been before Congress for years, but so far has failed to garner enough support to become law.

Chris Rickert can be reached at