Illinois Leader letters to the editor
Constituent urges Rep. Lindner et al to reverse horse
Thursday, April 15, 2004
I have been reviewing the pro and con arguments on SB1921 [ "11 letters
skewering horse slaughter company," January 27, and "Protect companion animals,"
January 23] the bill that would ban horse slaughter plants in Illinois for the
purposes of producing horse meat for human consumption.
I've learned that there are just three of these plants still operating in the
United States. Two in Texas are in danger of closure because they are
operating in defiance of state law as currently established. And the third, Cavel
International in DeKalb, burned to the ground but has been rebuilt and wants to
reopen its operations.
Let's start with an important premise. The consumption of horse meat by
humans is illegal in the United States. The horse is considered a companion animal,
like a dog or a cat, and therefore, cannot be eaten on United States soil by
anyone for any purpose. So why are there any horse slaughtering plants in the
U.S. that produce horse meat for human consumption?
There is a market in Japan and Europe, so the slaughter plants here export
the meat. One advantage to exporting horse meat, rather than beef, is that the
tariffs run approximately four times less. Since there are willing buyers, why
not allow a business to operate that meets individual wants?
First, an argument like that justifies pornography, strip clubs, chicken
fights, drug legalization, and many other "live and let live" ideas that most
Americans find unseemly and worthy of banning, or at least, strictly regulating.
Second, what are the social and humane costs of allowing these horse
slaughtering plants? The idea of gentle and beautiful horses crammed into double
decker trailers and hauled across the country with minimal food and water is cruel
and inhumane. The idea of gallant horses standing in line waiting for a bolt
to be shot into their heads and having their throats sliced in front of their
kind is also repulsive.
These are not animals raised and bred for food. They are raised and bred for
service, sport, and companionship. It is sad that rather than absorb a
$150-$200 cost of euthanizing and burial, owners would sell their horses to a killer
buyer for $200-300.
There is no problem with rendering plants that handle dead horses for the
purpose of reduction and recycling. The problem is killing otherwise viable
horses for eating.
By keeping the horse slaughtering business going, there is a profit motive to
bandits stealing horses from private persons. How tragic for a young child to
wake up and find their horse missing because someone wanted to make a quick
Anyone who has ever been around horses knows how smart and docile they are.
They can smell the blood at the horse slaughter plant and hear the cries. Do we
want DeKalb, Illinois to become the horse slaughter capital of the United
States? For the price of 40 jobs, mostly gut sweepers? It's not worth it.
The grassroots support for this type of legislation was tested in California
in 1998. A voter initiative there has not received such a high percentage of
support, before or since, than the 66% that voted for the ban on horse
slaughter for human consumption. Public opinion polls have run as high as 85% in other
There are many horse adoption and horse therapy facilities that would gladly
adopt an unwanted horse. That is the least that these innocent animals deserve
in our humane society. The web site "Horse Protection Society" tells the
I urge my State Representative Patricia Lindner to reverse her position on
this issue when the bill comes back for another vote when the legislature
returns to session. SB1921 received 55 yes votes and only 54 no votes the first time
it was called. The high-powered lobbying of the pro-horse slaughter groups
worked the first time. It won't happen again as regular folks mobilize and weigh
in with their views. 60 votes are needed to pass it.
A Federal ban on this practice, HR857, has 180 cosponsors in the US House and
even more committed supporters. A majority vote of 218 is needed there to
supercede state laws. But let's handle this right here at the state level.
Jon A. Zahm