The Illinois Leader
11 letters skewering horse slaughter company
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
PETA is just first on the list

Mr. Tucker of the Cavel International horse slaughter company, in his letter to the editor dated January 21 ["Horse slaughter co. responds"] attempts to sidetrack and misrepresent the truth of the issues at hand.

Mr. Tucker attempts to misrepresent the legislation drafted to protect Illinois horses from the greed and brutality of the foreign-owned horse slaughter trade as having been introduced as some sort of animal rights extremists' agenda with designs on attacking the meat industry in our country.

Mr. Tucker well knows the fact of the matter is that this legislation was initiated by many groups, none of which are PETA or any other groups as such.

The groups who support the legislation (SB 1921) to outlaw horse slaughter for human consumption are:

The Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation
The Illinois Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association
The Illinois Horseman’s Benevolent Protective Association
The Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association
Arlington Park Racecourse
Hawthorne National Racing Association
Fairmount Park
Balmoral/Maywood Park
Churchill Downs
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
The National Horse Protection Coalition
Illinois Hooved Animal Humane Society
Central Illinois Humane Society
The Humane Society of the United States
Illinois Humane Association
The American Horse Defense Fund
The Fund for Horses
The John Marshall Law School, Animal Law
Pam Kuhl Horse Transportation
Drexler Horse Transportation
Fasig-Tipton Sales Company
Blue Horse Charities
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association
C.A.N.T.E.R. Illinois (horse adoption)
RERUN Illinois (horse adoption)
Crosswinds Equine Rescue Illinois
Thoroughbred and standardbred breeding farms throughout Illinois
Public show and pleasure horse stables throughout Illinois
Equine veterinarians throughout Illinois
Numerous Illinois citizens - horse owners and nonhorse owners alike

This list of the horse industry organizations and businesses that support a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption soundly disproves Mr. Tucker’s claim that this legislation is an attack on the meat industry.

To take this one step further, need we remind the Cavel Company that in the United States horses are not raised for food or fiber. Horses in the United States are part of the horse industry, not the meat industry.

Should the Cavel Company choose to transfer their operation to a beef, hog, or any other food animal slaughter operation, you would find no objections from the groups listed above.

Mr. Tucker further tries to embellish the truth when he implies that his company “could” produce up to $15 million in foreign trade revenue.

Truth be told, this company offers very little economic consequence to the Illinois economy. In fact, the real meat producers in Illinois ought to be concerned that the import tariff abroad on U.S. horsemeat is 5.1%, while our Illinois beef producers pay an exorbitant import tax of 20 percent.

If I were raising beef cattle, I would be downright angry that a foreign owned company exporting a product that is not produced for food in the United States receives such a reduction on import fees, when our very own farmers who do raise a product that is produced for food in the United States are levied such an enormously disproportionate import tax.

We must also keep in mind that, economically speaking, champion Illinois bred race horses, show horses, and sport horses are sold every day to foreign and domestic interests, be it for breeding, sport, or recreation and generate many times over what Cavel expects they “could” generate.

Case in point: Recently, champion Illinois bred 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem was sold to foreign interests for $17 million, just to name one horse! Live horses generate money for our Illinois economy.

The horse industry in Illinois provides over 49,000 jobs and generates $3.86 billion in economic benefit annually to our state. Enough said.

Lastly, and perhaps the most egregious of the Cavel/Tucker misinformation, is the claim that they offer “humane” treatment of animals, and that the methods of slaughter they use are approved by the AVMA.

While in theory this may be true, in actuality it is not. The AVMA approval of the use of the captive bolt gun for means of rendering the horse unconscious or insensitive to pain clearly states exacting guidelines for proper use of this method. The AVMA clearly states that “proper head restraint" is required for humane administration of captive bolt gun, so as to immediately render the animal “stunned” and unconscious.

The horse slaughter plants offer no head restraint during administration of the captive bolt gun, thus, horses being a long-necked and easily frightened species, fight and toss their heads, causing animals to have to be “stunned” repeatedly. Oftentimes they remain improperly stunned and proceed through the slaughter process alive and conscious. Certainly, not humane.

Mr. Tucker states that he does not see why his business needs to argue for survival?

The answer is simple, Mr. Tucker. Your business offers no social or economic value to our state. On the contrary, your business brings with it deception, misrepresentation, a decrease in the revenue generated by live horses in the Illinois economy, and an increase in the threat of horse theft.

Furthermore, your business represents a significant increase in the risk of disease to the healthy Illinois horse populace, by way of your business’ exemption from Illinois laws, such as the Equine Infectious Anemia Control Act (510 ILCS 65/) and by way of the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s “Health Requirements Governing the Admission of Animals” and Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), that are designed to protect our healthy Illinois horses from the devastating effects that the import of sick and diseased horses to our state, from other states, can have on the healthy horse populace of Illinois.

If Cavel International wants to provide horsemeat to foreign consumers, let them eat their own horses, and certainly not ours!

For more information on the organization I represent, please visit:

For more information on the truth of the horse slaughter trade, including video and pictures, please visit:


Gail Vacca
National Horse Protection Coalition

Contaminated dinner

Obviously, Mr. Tucker is trying to hold on to his job and doesn't care about the killing of horses as long as he's benefiting from it.

This plant will be killing horses as soon as they arrive, since there are no long-term holding pens. How can anyone check each horse to see if it was legally purchased rather than stolen from someone's back yard? Papers are easily forged.

These are healthy, often young horses that are being killed, not the old and lame or sick.

Many of them may have drugs/supplements/dewormers in their system. Wish the Europeans and Japanese were smart enough to understand they could be eating contaminated meat.

I don't understand why some equine groups are supporting this, unless money is more important to them than horses' lives. Dumping excess horses at the auction saves them the money and time of caring for them until new homes are found. Just my opinion.

Sandra Church
Midlothian, Virginia

We don't eat horses in America

Apparently, Mr. Tucker is unaware that a meat industry thrives in California despite the fact that California banned horse slaughter in 1998.

According to Dr. Carolyn Stull, PhD, animal welfare specialist and head of equine sciences at the University of California, Davis, there has been no increase in the number of horses being neglected in California as a result of the law.

According to figures from the California Dept of Agriculture, horse theft in California dropped 50% immediately following the ban. The number of horses sold at auction was noticeably less as well. It can therefore be said that a horse slaughter trade can increase horse theft in a state by 50%.

California's horse slaughter ban passed by 60% - just under five million votes - the largest animal win of any initiative to date.

Mr. Tucker, one of the mere minority in favor of slaughtering horses in America, wants to know why he is arguing for the survival of this deplorable trade for which he has a vested interest. The answer is simple: We don't eat horses in America.

John and Catherine Campagna

More valuable alive than dead

Mr. Tucker is incorrect. Opposition to the re-opening of Cavel (which has not been in operation for 17 years - it burned down in 2002 and has not reopened since) is not a well-funded "group." We are horse owners, people who respect our heritage, those who enjoy animals, breeders of horses, the racing industry, and thousands of others. We are just people who see the hypocrisy of saying we don't eat our pets, companions, and coworkers and yet say that others can come here and to kill and eat them.

We are not an organized group. We are just people who have come together for a common goal of saving these noble beasts. Most of us had no idea that horses were being killed every day to feed the greed of those taking advantage of our ignorance. Once we find out, we become outraged and are asking our legislators to put a stop to it.

There are laws that enforce industry. The bill in Illinois is not the first one. It doesn't set precedence.

Certain drugs are illegal in this country and legal in other countries. Is Mr. Tucker proposing the opening of a Meth lab in his neighborhood? This is calling for the same thing.

It is illegal to sell or own horsemeat in this country, so its processing should also be illegal. It is that simple.

If that isn't enough, horses are not raised as a meat product. Horses have a natural fear of man (obviously justified) and in their training we teach them to trust us, handle them daily. We provide them with care and medications that manufacturers cannot answer how long will remain in the animal's system, since no tests were required since they are not meat producing animals in this country.

There are hundreds of stories and lawsuits about owners being defrauded and their beloved pets being sold to "honest" buyers who are the slaughterhouses' middle men - kill buyers.

Or owners who discover their pet is stolen and only recover the skin of their horses after they have been slaughtered.

Why do I care what happens in Illinois when I live in Tennessee? Statistics show that 80-90% of horses killed in these plants come from outside the state where the plants are located. All horses are in danger as long as these plants are in operation. Our protected mustangs are killed there, ponies, draft horses, registered horses, stolen horses, any horse as long as it is healthy and of good weight.

By law, the horses must be certified as being sound and in good health and not blind. This is not my opinion, it is federal law. So when the kill buyers head to auction or read the horses for sale ads, they are looking for young healthy animals, because if they are obeying the USDA that is all they can use.

They are also not bringing a much-needed economic boon to Dekalb. The jobs are all low paying, high stress jobs with an incredible amount of work related injuries.

The profits from the meat processing leave not only Dekalb, but Illinois and the United States as well. Live horses bring more of an economic boon with farriers, vets, medications, feed, show fees, property taxes and sales tax. With slaughter the horse brings a price once, but a live horse will see a farrier three or four times a year, the vet once a year, the feed store every month, worming and other medications several times a year, sales tax on all these items, and property taxes on the property they are raised, since they do not qualify for ag exemptions in most cases.

All this over a lifespan of 35 years average. The money is in keeping them alive.

I am not a radical animal rights activist. I am a horse owner, and I support IL SB 1921 and Federal HR 857. I could write out a list of those who are like me, but the number of farms, owners, companies, horse rescue groups, breed registries, ranchers, and others are in the hundreds and space doesn't permit. The list even contains members of the groups that Mr. Tucker used in his letter.

I also want to thank the Illinois Leader for its thought-provoking article on this issue and for its balanced reporting.

I speak for myself, for my family, for my farm, and for my horses.

Shelley Sawhook
Memphis, Tennessee

Cavel's House of Horrors

I cannot believe Tucker of Cavel responded, saying we are trying to abolish the meat industry!

Americans are learning what has been happening to our American horses. We do not eat horsemeat and do not raise them for meat and hopefully, if sold they will not have to face Cavel's House of Horrors. We look to our horses for sport, pleasure, and companionship.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and all the tracks want a end to this. They fully support HR 857 and SB 1921.

There is a place for horses other then the slaughter plant. Racing generates many jobs and also supports the agriculture community. A foreign plant such as Cavel's pays no export tariff and the employment is nil to the racing industry in Illinois.

What the AMVA says about landfills not wanting to take in horse carcasses, saying they are worried about seepage from the drugs that were given to them, is not true. Before moving here, a few years back, unfortunately a landfill moved in behind us. I got to know the manager when one of the biggest waste companies in the nation bought it. He gave us a tour showing how well lined all cells are and also leachate collection systems at the bottom of each cell.

Tucker mentioned how they follow USDA standards. A lot of the horses shipped to a plant come from all over the USA and Canada. How can they determine what is in each horse's system? I would say a lot of this meat going overseas is unfit for human consumption! Many racehorses get steroids and hormones, plus many of the medications state boldly, "Do not use if for human consumption."

Every day a new person finds out about this and wants this to end! These are not just PETA or animal rights activists either! These are people who look to our American horses as our history, for sport, companionship, or just for their beauty.

Yes, people eat cats, dogs, and horses in other countries. But the American people want an end to horse slaughter! Polls clearly state this! California's ban on horse slaughter passed by a landslide in 1998. Since there was a drop in theft and no raise in horse abuse.


Rose Blohm
Kershaw, South Carolina

Outback Steakhouse not suffering

If one reads the January 19 story, "Legislation proposed to end horse slaughter in Illinois," one can easily refute Mr. Tucker's response.

In my home state of California, we banned horse slaughter in 1998 by voter initiative. There were doomsayers stating the same things Mr. Tucker does about how this was an "attack on the meat industry." The California horse slaughter ban has been in place for five years now, and the beef, chicken, and pork industries are still thriving in our state.

This so called attack on the meat industry has yet to materialize. One cannot go to a shopping center here without seeing a crowded Outback Steakhouse or Chili's. When one thinks of such enterprises, we think of steak, chicken, or baby back ribs. What we don't associate them with is horsemeat, and we never will. Mr. Tucker, the California meat industry is doing fine without horse slaughter.

Here's something to ponder about revenue. The European Union has banned American beef, pork, and chicken due to health concerns. These products happen to have a relatively high export tariff on them, while the export tariff on horsemeat is quite low. These horsemeat producers operating here in America are foreign owned. Guess where the lions share of the profits go? The Europeans are all too happy to export horsemeat from these producers while turning their back on the American meat industry, which needs their business.

One final point. The horse slaughter ban in Illinois and at the federal level is strongly supported by the Thoroughbred community. Their industry greatly helps the economy, providing both money and jobs. Last I looked, the Thoroughbred Associations weren't rushing out to join PETA or the Animal Liberation Foundation.

Duane L. Burright, Jr.
Malibu, California

Texans like veal

Mr. Tucker stated in his letter relative to the proposed bill to make horse slaughter for human consumption in Illinois, "This law would be the first part in an attack on the meat industry in this country. I am sure that the veal industry would be the next target, yet your publication, by using the same old lies and misinformation promulgated by our opposition, have sided with a groups that will say anything to make a point."

Mr. Tucker may not be aware that it has been illegal in Texas to possess, transport, or sell horsemeat for human consumption since 1949, and no one here is demanding that the veal industry cease or letting our cows run loose in the streets while we try to stop the beef industry from operating.

I fail to see why the passing of a law already on the books in other states necessarily dictates that multiple other laws must follow, when there is no case study elsewhere for that being a guaranteed cause and effect. Even California has not gone after the beef industry after passing a horse slaughter bill, and Californians statistically are more liberal in their voting than residents of the Midwest and Southwest.

Mr. Tucker further writes, "On the other hand Cavel International, Inc. could produce up to $15 million in foreign trade revenue in agricultural industry in a state that needs such business." Up to $15 million is a large span of possibilities for revenue. Cavel International is a wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign incorporated entity headquartered overseas. As such, does it pay taxes on that revenue in the United States, where it is not realized, or in the actual country it is headquartered in and generates the revenue in? The costs are realized here, the actual sale (and profit) and income are generated overseas.

Is Mr. Tucker suggesting that Cavel's parent company will send back to Illinois up to $15 million in revenue and pay taxes on that amount in the States?

On the other hand, exactly what is meant about the production of the revenue and the immediate benefits to the economy of Illinois? There is no windfall from equivalent foreign owned plants in Texas, and their production is much higher than Mr. Tucker states Cavel's will be.

Mr. Tucker's assertion that all those in favor of this bill are part of "the propaganda machine of Mr. Duchissois and his PETA allies" and have thousands of dollars at our disposal might be found offensive by the Illinois Racing Industry, which generates millions for the Illinois economy, and by the way, sells hot dogs and hamburgers (made from good Illinois beef) happily.


Carol M. Chapman
Hitchcock, Texas

Off with their heads?

I feel that I must reply to Mr. James Tucker's letter. I am a professional thoroughbred racehorse trainer based in Illinois for the past 21 years and a director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Mr. Tucker's attempts to align horse slaughter opponents with animal rights groups are laughable. Unless you consider the Humane Society of the United States, The ASPCA, the Hooved Animal Humane Society, The Animal Welfare Institute, The American Horse Defense Fund, The Animal Law Society of John Marshall Law School, The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, The National Horse Protection Coalition, Blue Horse Charities, The Central Illinois Humane Society, all five race track in Illinois (Arlington, Balmoral, Fairmount, Hawthorne-National, and Maywood), the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, The Horsemen's Protective and Benevolent Association to be animal rights groups.

He lists organizations that consider his business "necessary." The Horsemen's Council of Illinois (with only about 200 voting members) has spoken in favor of horse slaughter.

However, many of the membership organizations that they claim, including the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation and the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, among others, have clearly stated their opposition to Cavel reopening and are in strong support of SB1921 to ban the slaughter of horses in Illinois for human consumption.

I was unable to find a Midwest Horse Show Association anywhere on the Internet to speak to their members, but I cannot imagine telling families and students to use their horses until they get tired of them, then ship them off to the killers.

The Illinois Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association supports Cavel reopening, however the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association does not. What kind of a breed organization would say, "let's breed them, breed them, breed them, run them until they cannot go anymore, then chop their heads off?" I have many friends in the standardbred industry who are responsible, caring owners to whom slaughter is simply not an option. I would love to see a poll of their membership on this subject.

Mr. Tucker argues that this is an established business that should not have to fight for it's survival. Times change. Horse slaughter is no longer acceptable in our society.

Janice Ely


Would like to add my voice to the many who find slaughtering horses for human consumption repulsive. It would be unthinkable to have Illinois be the only state that permits this horrible practice.

Robert A. Wheatley

Horse slaughter deception

Thank you for running the article on Illinois horse slaughter. As the vote for SB1921 comes closer to make horse slaughter in Illinois illegal, it is important that Illinois voters know what is happening.

The issue of horse slaughter effects more than those in Illinois, as horses will be trucked in from every state without coggins tests, as would be required for any other horse traveling in or out of state.

Those in favor of slaughtering our horses for overseas human consumption would like everyone to believe that unless we have this brutal inhumane horse slaughter system, all the horses that have been sent would be left standing in pastures starving to death. This is so not true.

Neglectful, irresponsible owners don't take their horses anywhere now - with slaughter legal. The slaughter system has absolutely no effect on those who would leave their horse to starve to death, or we wouldn't see any starvation now and we do.

The majority of horse owners is responsible and will take responsibility for a humane death for their horse. Those who don't should be prosecuted for neglect.

There is less than one percent of the nation's estimated horse population in the slaughter system. We don't need it or want it. It is bad business for our horses.

They try to claim it is humane, but horses are not bred and raised for the food chain. They are bred to be intelligent and respond to the slightest touch or sound and have an acute flight or fight instinct that makes the slaughter system especially cruel and inhumane.

Just study a herd of horses and any other food chain animal and you will quickly see the difference. They buck, rear, bite, or strike and can make even a short time in a trailer or holding pen horrible for another horse.

Those who are pro-slaughter claim they want a viable alternative. What they want is someone else who will give them money and shirk their responsibility. Thank goodness they are a very small percent of the horse owning population!

Concerning one of Tuckers responses - I'd love to see the breakdown on that 15 million in revenue. How much stayed in DeKalb, how much in Illinois, and how much in the U.S.?

P.S. Many of us are just horse owners trying to protect our horses. I am thankful the racing industry has stepped forward to defend their horses. They are always the forefront of any equine initiative.

Vicky Johnson

What about the orphans?

I love horse racing and have been quite a fan, but with some of them retiring and going to stud, their little ones are coming up. I would like to see a better end to some of them than the slaughterhouse.

I was blind by the fact I didn't think we slaughtered horses over here in the United States since we don't eat them. It was pretty hushed up until Ferdinand died. I didn't even know about the premare urine farms until August. But learning all the facts made me realize how cruel we are to our horses.

They say the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. But how far do you think we have come? Not very far as long as we allow the foreign-owned slaughterhouses to come over to our country and kill our horses for $15 million.

What do you think? I support SB 1921 and its first amendment to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the State of Illinois, and I wish more U.S. citizens would stand up to the

foreigners in our own country.

Thank you.
Melissa Dietz
Articles, columns, and letters to the editor on the topic of health care can be accessed by clicking here to view our Health Care issues category, or you can click on it on the left side of our home page under "Issues."
Do you have thoughts, ideas or comments on this letter? Send a letter about a letter to the editor! Address it to Don't forget to include your full name and town/city where you live!