Illinois Leader
Horse slaughter bill not done yet, senate sponsor says
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
By Joyce Morrison, Southern IL News Correspondent
SPRINGFIELD -- While an amendment to the horse slaughter ban did not pass the Illinois House over the weekend, HB 649's Senate sponsor State Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago) says he has not given up yet.

Cullerton said today he is requesting a conference committee to further discuss the ban with hopes of ironing out differences and moving the bill to the governor's desk.

"This is too important of an issue to abandon at this time," he said.

Cullerton said he had an overwhelming response from his Chicago district constituents who consider horses to be pets and not livestock. It is illegal to sell, buy, trade or give away horsemeat for human consumption in any state in the United States.

It wasn't as if Cullerton didn't reach to the stars to get the bill passed.

Even Hollywood film star and staunch George W. Bush supporter Bo Derek could not stop horses from being slaughtered for foreign food consumption.

Derek, an avid horsewoman, visited lawmakers in the Capitol, urging them to end butchering horses for consumption to foreign countries. Derek's influence did help the ban make it through the Illinois Senate in a 38 to 15 vote.

"Name one other item that is illegal to consume or use in Illinois that would be legal to send for sale to foreign countries," said Gail Vacca, Illinois Coordinator for National Horse Protection Coalition, who has been fighting for the bill's passage.

When the amended bill made it back to the House, it was rejected this weekend in a 61 to 50 vote.

During a controversial floor discussion, State Representative Charles Morrow (D-Chicago) strayed off the horse slaughter topic in a soliloquy on senior citizens eating cat food. The diversion in topic could be the basis for a vote to be reviewed.

"I've got seniors eating cat food," Morrow said on the House floor. "Maybe they ought to eat a horse. If you can eat Bo Peep, Bugs Bunny and Bambi, why can't you eat Mr. Ed?"

"That had nothing to do with shipping horsemeat to foreign countries," Vacca said.

The Quad City Times reported that Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica) said that more than 15,000 horses a year must be disposed of and that he has "never seen anything slap Illinois agriculture in the face more than this bill does."

One of three foreign-owned horse slaughter facilities nationwide is located in Illinois at the Cavel International in DeKalb where horsemeat is processed to send overseas. The other two facilities are located in Texas under scrutiny by local officials.

James Tucker, Cavel project manager was quoted as saying "We’re getting a very loud minority who’s making a lot of noise about this. We shouldn’t be defining for other cultures what they eat."

Tucker argued that "horsemeat exportation is a multi-million dollar business and good for Illinois’ economy," according to a report from the Post-Dispatch's Springfield Bureau.

Others ban critics voice concern that the state could ban butchering hogs or cattle if this line of state interference is crossed.

Illinois receives sales tax on approximately $40 million dollar sales to the horse industry. Horse owners are required to pay sales tax on the purchase of feed, bedding and pharmaceuticals for their horses because they are classified as a companion/recreational animals, the same as dogs and cats.

Livestock raised for human consumption is exempt from the same taxes.

According to proponents of the bill, numerous horse rescue facilities are available in Illinois and other states to take in unwanted horses who would be slaughtered at the DeKalb facility. They have been active for years working with horse owners who do not want the responsibility that goes with taking care of their animal.

While legislators are debating whether a horse slaughtering should be banned in Illinois, the United States U.S. Department of the Interior Wild Horse and Burro program will be holding "Adopt a Wild Horse or Burrow" days on July 10 and 11 in Bloomington, where wild horses from the west will brought in for adoption.

Recently humane and rescue centers have reportedly been busy locating homes for horses when a large number of mares hit the market after studies showing the hormone "Premarin," used since the 1940s by menopausal women, was causing major health risks.

As a result, Wyeth-Ayerst’s drug Premarin (short for PREgnant MARe urINe) and similar drug sales plummeted, facilities breeding mares for drug production dropped, and the horses faced either adoption or destruction.

Sources say that foals from the pregnant mares often are sold at auction where many end up for slaughter if they are not rescued.

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