For release: Immediate For information: Frank Bowman (217) 585-1600


Springfield, IL - Following Thursday evening's 38 - 18 Senate vote to ban slaughter of horses for human consumption (HB 649), the Horsemen's Council of Illinois (HCI) reasserted its position today that slaughter must be retained as an option for final disposition, "For the ultimate welfare of our horses," according to Frank Bowman, Council chairman.

The bill now returns to the House for concurrence with the Senate amendment. If the House votes to concur, the bill is sent to the Governor for signature.

In a plea to Illinois' 77,000 horse owners, HCI repeated its testimony given earlier Thursday before the Senate Executive Committee, urging responsible owners to email their state representatives to vote "no" on the legislation, which could significantly raise taxes and make criminals out of unsuspecting horsemen who unknowingly sell a horse that could wind up headed for slaughter elsewhere.

HCI is the state's largest all-breed all-discipline equine organization, representing approximately 10,000 horse owners statewide.

Bowman invited legislators and horsemen across the state to consider that, "This legislation innocently seeks to prohibit the processing of horse meat for human consumption either for domestic or international sale, but look below the surface."

"No horse owner is required or obligated to send their horse to slaughter," Bowman points out. "Responsible horse owners make responsible decisions for their animals," he said.

"This is not about your pet," Bowman emphasizes. "This is about 15,000 unwanted horses each year from the Midwest alone, more than 50,000 nationwide. How many of them are you willing to adopt, take home and maintain," he asks, referring to the monumental public expense anticipated to care for abandoned animals (some estimate between $1,500 and $3,000 annually per horse).

He cites data showing that equine slaughter exports to Mexico are running 159% ahead of last year's year-to-date numbers according to the USDA 

Under the bill, selling or exporting Illinois horses to Europe or Asia, or even other states which permit horse slaughter, would
potentially make criminals out of some of the most respected horse breeders and trainers, Bowman contends.

"It's a long truck ride from Illinois to Mexico," Bowman says, and "this trend is likely to continue and get worse if this legislation is adopted."

Under Illinois law, horses are livestock. "They also may be your pet, companion and trusted friend, but they are not dogs or cats; we do not invite them into our living rooms," Bowman says.

The effort to ban slaughter in Illinois began as an image cleanup within the Thoroughbred racing industry. Horse racing represents only 10% of the horses in Illinois.

"The racing industry is quite capable of funding its own retirement system and public image campaigns without additional government subsidy," Bowman asserts. "Of the other 90%, a sound majority of horse owners recognize the need for a slaughter option in the final disposition of uneconomical livestock. All other livestock breeders have this option," Bowman notes.

HCI contends that eliminating the slaughter option shifts the burden of disposition to the taxpayers and local governments of the state. It effectively eliminates auctions as a means of selling all but the most expensive equine and benefits an unproven and non-regulated cottage industry, the Equine Rescue, according to HCI.

Considering this, HCI issued the following appeal to legislators and horsemen:

"Who will pay for housing and maintaining unwanted horses? Nobody cares more compassionately for the health and welfare of Illinois' horses than the Horsemen's Council but, according to a recent paper from Colorado State University, establishing a statewide welfare program for unwanted horses may cost Illinois taxpayers as much as $22 million in the first year alone. That number would continue to grow larger with each passing year. The budget for warehousing BLM's 22,000 unadoptable wild horses is projected to be $45 million for fiscal 2005. Illinois' taxpayers, school districts and budget cannot afford to pay for this type of welfare program."

Bowman says that the $22 million burden cited in the Colorado survey may be extremely low and that HCI currently is directing a study to affix more relevant costs in Illinois.

"There are no fundable alternatives presented in HB 649," Bowman says. "Further, the animal rights lobby is attempting to turn horses into America's first `Sacred Cow' and is using this legislature as its pawn."

State legislatures do not establish cultural or religious values, Bowman contends.

HCI characterizes the proponents of anti-slaughter legislation, the National Horse Protection Coalition (NHPC), as "comprised of Member Organizations who's sole purpose is securing government funding for their continued operations and the elimination of all meat from the human diet."

"These are the same people who brought you dog pounds, animal registrations and licenses . Impounding and state sanctioned
euthanasia have not solved the problem of unwanted pets. It won't work for horses either." Bowman says.

NHPC members include The Doris Day Animal League, The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Welfare Institute, Habitat for Horses, The Fund for Animals and Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Organizations and Industry Experts opposing this type of legislation include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Quarter Horse Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Horsemen's Council of Illinois, Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society, Animal Welfare Council, Horse Welfare Council and Mid-America Horse Show Association.