Horse slaughtering stirs up passions

Illinois Leader

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

With all due respect to Mr. Seiffe, live horses are what make a solid contribution to the Illinois economy [,"GUEST OPINION: The Democratsí Jobs Outsourcing Plan," March 25].

As a thoroughbred racehorse trainer, let me give you an example of the income we generate:

The Daily Chronicle stated that the Cavel International horse slaughter plant pays $90,000 in property tax, and that it will provide 30 to 40 jobs with an annual payroll of one million dollars. This is supposed to help the economic picture in Illinois?

Lets compare this one million dollar Cavel payroll to the payroll of just one of the hundreds of Illinois based race horse trainers.

Here's the breakdown on one horse stable at Hawthorne Racecourse:

10 grooms @ 300/week=156,000/year
6 hotwalkers @ 200/week=62,400/year
4 exercise riders @ 500/week=104,000/year
1 asst, trainer @ 800/week=42,000/year
1 night watchman @ 250/week=12,500/year
1 trainer @ 5,000 week=260,000/year

Total: one race horse trainer annual payroll = 639,900/year

Multiply this by the number of 40+ horse stables right now at Hawthorne, and letís be conservative and say there are only 20:

640,000 X 20 = a little over 12.8 million!

So our 20 forty-horse stables, equaling a total of 800 horses, who represent a small fraction of the actual number of race horses in Illinois, (I believe there are approximately 20,000) generate $12.8 million in taxable income. Now this is economics that is of some value! And we are just getting started.

Let's not forget that we did not include the dozens of mid-size stables of 10 - 20 horses each, and the dozens of stables with less than 10 horses each. And keep in mind that we are talking about the current meeting at Hawthorne, which is only one of the five Illinois racetracks.

Nor have I included the millions and millions of dollars in sales tax generated by the sale of feed, bedding, hay, health care products, tack, farriers, veterinarians etc., from horses as a non-food producing animal.

Nor did we include the millions and millions of dollars we trainers and owners pay in workman's comp insurance and equine insurance, liability insurance, property tax and property insurance!!

Give me a break, Mr. Seiffe, a horse slaughter plant is not even worth mentioning in the same sentence with the word economics and/or horse.

As far as your comments about the horse slaughter trade not being inhumane, clearly you know nothing of which you speak. We the professional horseman of Illinois have taken a stand to protect our horses.

Do you profess that you would know what is better or more humane for our horses than we, who work with and care for them each and every day? If the horse slaughter trade was so humane, why does every nationally recognized humane association condemn this practice? If horse slaughter was so humane, why are we fighting to spare our horses from this fate? Good grief, Mr. Seiffe, would you like to have the reader believe that horses actually enjoy being slaughtered?

Why don't you stick to whatever it is that you do, and leave the horse business to the Illinois horse racing industry, which generates over $3.8 billion and provides over 35,000 full-time jobs directly, each and every year to the economy of Illinois? We are the people contributing billions to the Illinois economy, not Cavel International.

I, for one, am disgusted by anyone who seeks to defend this business and am even more repulsed by the legislators who were swayed by "meat" industry special interests to vote against the legislation the horse industry desires to protect our life's work!

If the state of Illinois is to allow our horses to be part of the food chain, I, and thousands of other horse owners, will immediately be filing for our sales tax exempt status that all owners and raisers of food producing animals enjoy. We will see how healthy that makes the state's bottom line look next year.

By a conservative estimate, Illinois will lose well over $50 million every year in state sales tax revenue, all for the sake of one unnecessary little horse slaughter plant, which, by the way, will soon not even have a market for its product.

The younger generations of French people are even finding it revolting to eat horsemeat. In fact, due to the health concerns associated with eating drug-laden horsemeat, the French government has banned horsemeat for sale in French restaurants. How long do you figure it will be before it is banned in the markets as well?

Don't believe me? Read it for yourselves, "French kicking the horse habit." Horse slaughter? It sounds like a lose/lose proposition for Illinois to me.

Gail Vacca
DeKalb, Illinois