ELK GROVE TIMES — April 1, 2004

Legislature tries to rein in horse slaughter market


Legislation that would make it illegal for someone to slaughter a horse and sell the meat to foreign consumers sailed through the Senate last week but fell just five votes short of passing in the House.

In Illinois, it's already illegal to sell horse meat intended for human consumption in the United States. But the long arm of the law only reaches so far, and it isn't unlawful for slaughterhouses to ship the meat overseas.

Japan, France and Belgium are said to consume a majority of America's equine meat, often using it as a substitute for beef or lamb.

It's believed the nation's only horse slaughterhouses are located in Texas, which by no coincidence has the nation's largest horse population, said Lydia Gray, executive director with the Hooved Animal Humane Society.

But Caval International, a DeKalb-based slaughterhouse that processes horse meat for European consumption, is set to reopen soon, Gray said. The slaughterhouse burned to the ground in 2002.

Lawmakers are trying to put a stop to that.

Senate Bill 1921 would make it a Class C misdemeanor for anyone found to have slaughtered a horse and exported the meat -- even to European countries. The legislation passed the Senate on March 27 by a 32 to 16 vote. Support in the House, though, has not been as strong.

State Rep. Robert Molaro, D-21st, introduced a similar bill, House Bill 6570, but has since tabled it himself. If he can procure enough votes to pass it, Molaro said he "may call the bill again this week."

Gray said she supports the legislation because the "entire slaughter industry is inhumane."

An Arlington Park official, who declined to be identified, said he wasn't aware that retiring thoroughbreds were ever slaughtered for food.

But Gray said roughly "5 to 10 percent" of slaughtered horses in this country were ex-thoroughbreds. The majority of victims are middle weight, average age, riding horses, she said.


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