The Illinois Leader
Two letters requesting balance in horse slaughter reporting
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Inaccurate and unbalanced reporting

Please note that your article about the legislation in Illinois to outlaw the slaughter of horses for human consumption contained a significant number of factual errors ["Legislation proposed to end horse slaughter in Illinois," January 19].

It appeared that the author of the article took as his/her primary source those animal rights groups that are vehemently opposed to theact of humans eating horsemeat.

The arguments that these extremist groups use to substantiate their largely emotional position are fraught with inaccuracies. I invite you to review a discussion of the actual facts surrounding this issue by consulting the website for the Horsemen's Council of Illinois at:

I believe that you will be surprised by the number of highly credentialed professionals and professional groups with a great deal more expertise in this area who are opposed to such legislation.

Hopefully after reading the full text of the white paper on this

issue, you will then consider writing another article portraying the issues in a more realistic light, or at least writing something more balanced in its content.


Sheryl S. King, PhD, Professor
Director of Equine Studies
Animal Science Department
Southern Illinois University

Vice President
Horsemen's Council of Illinois

Illinoisans can eat horsemeat

Every writer is subject to bias. Those of us in the profession accept it. But we strive diligently to avoid blatant untruths, two of which I must cite.

Your article says in paragraph two that is unlawful to eat horse meat in Illinois. No Illinois law prohibits it.

Later in the article, the writer says that horses have been considered companion animals in the United States. While this may be true, the implication is that it's true in Illinois, too, which is not the case. Illinois law considers horses to be livestock.

Much of the opinion expressed in your article comes from a paper commissioned by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and written by an East Coast marketing and publicity agency (The Fourth Wall Inc.) hired to serve the interests of animal rights activists.

Many horse organizations support the slaughter option as a viable choice for horse owners deeply concerned about the welfare of horses. These organizations include the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Quarter Horse Association, Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society, the Illinois Farm Bureau and many others.

You will find an unbiased, proper presentation of research on the issue, done by knowledgeable horse owners, at

Or consider this response by Dr. Sheryl S. King, Director of Equine Science at Southern Illinois University, to an animal rights activist voicing the language of that same PR agency's incendiary piece:

"I have read the white paper written by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation very, very closely. I was amazed at the degree of inaccurate information and inflammatory language in it. On the other hand, a great deal of quantifiable, scientific fact supports the HCI (Horsemen's Council of Illinois) stance supporting the preservation of the option of humane slaughter as being the best solution, at least for now, for the welfare of horses and the preservation of a viable horse industry in Illinois and the U.S."

It is true that the business of horse slaughter - here I refer to the actual business of the abattoirs - is motivated by consumers in other countries, and if there was not profit for the abattoir owners there would certainly be no business.

This is no different from the factors influencing any for-profit business, regardless of who the consumer is or where they happen to be located.

Business considerations, however, do not detract from the fact (and it is a fact) that, until a workable, viable alternative is available in this country, the option of humane slaughter of horses in the U.S. serves a very real and positive purpose for a number of American horses.

As it is practiced in the U.S., and with the current regulations governing it, horse slaughter is humane, and it certainly beats the option of starvation and neglect that many horses will face without the slaughter alternative.

Although it is certainly not an option for everyone - and you or anyone else are in no way compelled to send any horse you own to slaughter - it does prevent thousands of horses from a worse fate. This opinion has been substantiated by a number of horse welfare scientists and professionals and horse organizations with far more expertise and credentials on this issue than you or me.

I urge you to start communicating with horse people from California. You will find that the opinion among many is that, since horse slaughter has been banned, the incidence of horse neglect has increased there (although no statistics are formally kept on this, so you will not be able to reliably track it). You will find comments in letters to editors in a number of horse publications from that state. You will even find cases of horrible neglect in California displayed on the Internet.

Yes, it may seem counterintuitive to you that preserving the option of humane slaughter might be a good thing for horses in the U.S., but those are the facts. Emotions may say otherwise, but the Horsemen's Council of Illinois is committed to the preservation of quality of life for horses and for Illinois' horsemen, so emotional reactions must take second place to this overriding principle.

I must say that as a group, I have not met a more caring or committed group of horse lovers than those leading the Horsemen's Council of Illinois. As you probably are aware, sometimes caring for our animals requires us to make some difficult choices for them.

I invite you to read the entire text of the Horsemen's Council of Illinois' white paper on the subject. You will find within numerous references to published facts and to opinions of horse industry/welfare scientific experts. In the end, what HCI wants is pretty much what you want - a situation where horses are provided with a humane life and an equally humane death, and a thriving horse industry that supports our mutual love of this animal."

Robert E. Meierhans
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