The Illinois Leader
Four letters in support of horse slaughter ban
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Your reader citing horse slaughter as a means to control horse abuse in Illinois [ " Both sides of horse slaughter ban," April 16] should compare the numbers between Texas and California. Since California banned the slaughter of horses in 1998, horse theft has decreased over 34%; however, in Texas, where the only two horse slaughterhouses in the nation exist, horse theft and abuse are rampant. Many horses will be stolen or sold unknowingly to "killer buyers" at auctions who claim to want the horses for different purposes.

Our horses are not raised as livestock. Horses are our companions, sporting animals, and friends. The thought of sending them to slaughter after a lifetime of service is sickening. The word slaughter covers a lengthy time period that is long and horrific.

I hope that politicians who will vote on this have taken the time to educate themselves on what it entails: days of being crowded into cattle trailers without food and water with many of the horses arriving dead. At the facility, horses smell the blood and hear the screams of horses in the process of being killed. They know what it means. Horses are not bred like cattle to be docile. They go to the slaughter fighting. This is a slow, inhumane process that goes on for a long while before the horse is actually dead.

It is ironic that the same Department of Agriculture that oversees animal cruelty issues would have the responsibility of overseeing the horse slaughter facility. Laws exist to protect any living creature from cruelty that would be considered far less [cruelty] than what horses at a slaughter plant endure.

Horses serve us unconditionally until they are physically unable. Surely we owe them some protection for this bond we have made. In a year when the movies Seabiscuit and Hidalgo are being presented in theaters--moving demonstrations of the relationship between man and horse--it is a sad irony that we now debate this in Illinois.

Valerie Kennedy


With all due respect, to the writer from Minier, clearly he remains uninformed as to the type of horses who get slaughtered. Think about it, do you think it is the old, sick, injured and crazy horses who make a good human food product, or would it more likely be the young, healthy, plump horses? Let us not forget that the horse slaughter plants are in the meat business. These plants, are not in the horse business. They are not there as some sort of outlet to the horse industry. They are there to provide for their own economic benefit, by way of providing a food product to an overseas market.

The writer mentioned the economics of disposing of injured horses. How injured might these horses be, Mr. Snider? Would they perhaps be so severely injured that they should be euthanized? Would it then be the humane and legal thing to do with these injured horses to load them on jam-packed trailers and haul them hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of miles while they anguish in agonizing pain from their injuries or illness, which by the way is against the law? Or should one do the legal and responsible thing and have that animal humanely euthanized by a licensed veterinarian?

You try to raise fear that there will be some sort of tremendous problem in Illinois with our inability to cope with the sheer volume of horses who will eventually die. The fact of the matter is that 22,000 horses die of natural causes, or are humanely euthanized by veterinarians every year in Illinois. In the two years Illinois has not had a horse slaughter plant, there has not been one report of horses dying in our fields and the carcasses being left undisposed of. Illinois rendering facilities have stated that they can easily accommodate, many times over the number of horses they currently process each and every year, should need be.

Most importantly for readers to note is that, in the period since Cavel has not operated, the Hoofed Animal Humane Society (HAHS), who has the state's largest number of licensed humane investigators, reports that the instance of equine neglect and abuse has substantially decreased. HAHS has nearly three times the number of investigators than does the Illinois Department of Agriculture. HAHS is the state's leading investigative agency for hoofed animal abuse.

You spoke of the slaughter market placing a "floor" on the value of horses. This is one of my particular pet peeves. It is ridiculous to say that a meat market price has any bearing whatsoever on the prices of horses.

The fact is that the horse industry relies upon entry level buyers for growth and economic health. Your entry level buyer, just like the home or car buyer is at the low end of the market and therefore, in direct competition with the killer buyers for these horses. Many of the horses bought for slaughter were simply outbid by killer buyers whose pockets may be deeper than those of a family looking to buy a reasonably priced entry level mount for their kids.

This results in a loss of revenue to horse industry professionals and the economy of the state. Had these horses stayed in circulation, they would potentially generate revenue for many years to come via the sales of feed, bedding, hay, riding lessons, training, farriers, veterinarians, tack and supplies, transportation, trailer and truck sales, farmers, etc., etc.

Finally, your comment that "shooting one and burying it is a nuisance" speaks volumes as to the type of people who support and supply this despicable trade. Please, allow me to remind you Mr. Snider, no one "made" you own horses. When one enters into horse ownership, one acknowledges the commitment to care for these animals not only in life, but also in death. It is our responsibility, as stewards of these magnificent creatures, to provide them with humane care during their lives and also provide them with a humane death when the time comes.

Your statement makes me fear for your horses. Do you also find it to be a nuisance to feed and water your horses in the dead of winter? Do you also find it to be a nuisance to sit up all night with a sick animal or provide it proper veterinary care? Horses require feed, water, care, and commitment seven days a week, 365 days a year, Christmas and birthdays included.

If you find horses to be such a "nuisance" perhaps a four-wheeler would better suit you.

Gail Vacca
Illinois Coordinator, National Horse Protection Coalition


Here are a few extra points to consider in the horse slaughter debate.

  • 1) According to a 2001 field study by livestock expert Temple Grandin, 70-96% of all horses studied at a horse slaughterhouse were not aged, injured, or bad-tempered. Most of those horses are euthanized and sent to the renderer or are buried, or can be sent to a vet school to be used as cadavers. Most of the horses sent to slaughter are purchased at auction, or through sales ads, by licensed "kill-buyers". Usually unbeknownst to the owner.
  • 2) The Hoofed Animal Humane Society reports a decrease in abuse and neglect cases with horses since Cavel has closed. Meanwhile, these cases are on the rise in Texas where two horse slaughterhouses currently operate.

    Those who can no longer care for their horse can refer to a horse rescue. Those who abuse their horses, would do so regardless of whether a horse slaughterhouse is available. Those who neglect their horse's care should not be rewarded by the slaughterhouse.

  • 3) Horses in IL are taxed as companion animals and should not be used for meat. They are routinely medicated with products which clearly state "NOT intended for animals used for human consumption."

    All of this, in addition to the fact that horse slaughter is not humane. I have not found any reason yet which would justify letting this plant reopen in my town.

    By the way, burial may seem a "nuisance" to some, but having a truck full of entrails and blood spill onto the road was a nuisance to Dekalb residents. Being known as the horse slaughter capital of the Midwest is a nuisance to many Dekalb residents as well.

    Please keep all of these things in mind, and write to your state and federal congressmen urging them to support the bans on horse slaughter! Thank you!

    Melanie Nelson


    As an equine veterinarian, horse owner, humane investigator, and the executive director of the state’s oldest and largest humane society for large animals, the Hoofed Animal Humane Society (HAHS), I would like to provide your readers with accurate information so that they can make an informed decision on SB1921, the bill to ban horse slaughter.

    The correct number of equine neglect cases that the Illinois Department of Agriculture received during the last few years is as follows:

  • In 2000, the Department received about 200 complaints (197 to be exact)
  • In 2001, they received about 300 complaints (306 to be exact)
  • In 2002, they received about 400 complaints (413 to be exact)
  • And in 2003, they also received about 400 complaints (409 to be exact).

    As you can see, each year the Department receives about a hundred more complaints than the year before. There has been no “doubling” of complaints since Cavel burned in March of 2002. In fact, the number of complaints received leveled off after the only horse slaughter plant in Illinois closed. In both 2002 and 2003 the Department received approximately 400 complaints, whereas the trend had been an increasing one.

    Similarly, we at HAHS have seen fewer complaints since Cavel burned: 262 [complaints] in 2002 vs. 169 in 2003. Therefore, we believe that slaughter encourages neglect. We urge everyone who is concerned about the humane treatment of horses to ask their legislators to vote YES on SB 1921.

    Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA
    Executive Director, Hoofed Animal Humane Society


    Related articles:
    "Constituent urges Rep. Lindner et al to reverse horse slaughter vote," April 15
    "11 letters skewering horse slaughter company," January 27
    "Protect companion animals," January 23
    "Legislation proposed to end horse slaughter in Illinois," January 19