|Photo from the HOOFPAC Political Action Committee website, whose motto is, "Keep America's horses in the stable and off the table!"
Horsemeat is considered a delicacy in some cultures and sells for as much as $15 per pound. It is unlawful to consume horsemeat in the State of Illinois.
State Representative Bob Molaro (D) introduced legislation that will ban the slaughter of horses in the State of Illinois for human consumption. The Molaro bill -- HB3845 -- is now an amendment to SB1921.
The Cavel International, Inc. of DeKalb, Illinois is a horse slaughtering business destroyed by fire in 2002. A new facility is scheduled to open in February or March of this year.
James Tucker, Cavel project manager was quoted as saying "We’re getting a very loud minority who’s making a lot of noise about this. We shouldn’t be defining for other cultures what they eat. Tucker argued that horsemeat exportation is a multimillion-dollar business and good for Illinois’ economy," according to a report from the Post-Dispatch's Springfield Bureau.
Horse trainer Gail Vacca of DeKalb disputes Tucker’s statement. Vacca said that a survey shows that 83% to 90% oppose the slaughter of horses for consumption.
"This is not a ‘loud minority’ but an over-whelming majority speaking out against a foreign owned company providing a service that is totally in opposition to our culture," Vacca said. "The horse racing industry alone employs 37,500 full time jobs compared to the Cavel operation which provides 40 minimum wage jobs with a big turnover."
Vacca disclaimed any association with animal rights groups who have been considered extreme in their actions regarding animals. She told the Leader that the racing industry is the major organization promoting the protection bill.
"I believe every living creature should be treated humanely and the horse killing industry treats these animals brutally. There are numerous refuge and retirement facilities that take unwanted horses in Illinois, there is never a reason for a horse to to be slaughtered in this way outside of greed," she said.
Vacca said the Hoofed Animals Humane Society reported substantially fewer equine cruelty calls during the period the slaughter house has been down.
Arlington Park chairman Richard L. Duchoissois said in a letter to Vacca, "Obviously, we are in support of this bill. We do not wish to have any thoroughbreds slaughtered."
"Cavel International applied for the horse slaughter license on 4/14/03 when no facility existed" Vacca said. "The Illinois Dept. of Agriculture granted the license on 4/22/03 and had not inspected the facility as is required."
Slaughter horse buyers travel across the country to find killer horses to be transported to Illinois and Texas for slaughter. Horses transported into Illinois must have a certificate from a veterinarian and proof they have been tested for equine infectious anemia. However, the horse slaughterhouse is the only people exempt from these regulations and this represents a major health hazard.
Horses have been considered companion animals in the United States and are taxed as a recreational animal. They are not exempt from state sales tax as are other livestock species that are raised for food production.
"Will we be killing dogs and cats for consumption next?" Vacca said. "Our culture has to draw a line somewhere and we have never in our history been a country that eats companion animals."
Since horses are not produced for food consumption, they are treated with drugs that would be considered dangerous if consumed, as there are no regulations on treatment or withdrawal.
Approximately thirty horse associations have joined forces in supporting Molaro's bill as well as the equine veterinarians and other organizations throughout Illinois.
One quarter horse raiser told the Leader, "If you would ever tour a horse slaughtering facility, you would have trouble sleeping."
Texas, where the other two slaughter facilities owned by Belgium and France are located, passed legislation banning horse slaughter for consumption last year.
"When the Texas facilities are closed, Illinois will be the only state that allows that practice," said Carol Chapman of the Last Refuge, an organization that rescues unwanted horses.
Russell Crotchett of Jerseyville has bred and trained harness racing horses for almost fifty years. He said he never has a problem finding a good home for horses that are not longer good for racing.
"In fact, our horses are always in demand. The Amish are always looking for a good buggy horse," he said.
© 2004 Illinois Leader.com
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