Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Cavel in second month of limited production
Seller of horse meat running under capacity until demand increases

Article by:
Sara Dolan - Staff Reporter

It’s back to business as usual at Cavel International — a horse slaughtering plant that will generate $90,000 in property taxes when the plant is running at full capacity.

Cavel’s General Manager James Tucker said the plant has 25 employees and plans to hire 15 more when demand increases. Tucker expects greater demand with the onset of colder weather, which drives up meat consumption.

In early June, the horse-slaughtering plant at 108 Harvestore Drive reopened two years after it burned down March 31, 2002. Neither the DeKalb Fire Department nor the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could determine the cause.

The Belgium-based company is one of three in the United States to export horse meat for consumption in Europe.

The United States bans consumption of companion animals.

The redesigned plant will allow Cavel to slaughter up to 100 horses a day. The plant could process 50,000 pounds of consumable meat a day, Tucker said.

Horse meat is not a delicacy but is very common in many European butcher shops, he said.

“It is a working-class food,” Tucker said.

Tucker, who has eaten horse meat, said Europeans often prefer horse to beef because it is leaner and sweeter.

Though it was an accident, NIU President John Peters said he has eaten horse. He attributes the mistake to his poor French and said he immediately stopped when he learned what it was.

“I didn’t feel comfortable eating Trigger,” said Peters, alluding to the equine pal of singing cowboy Roy Rogers. Rogers and Trigger starred in 1930s and ’40s Westerns.

Anti-horse-slaughter activists echo Peters’ sentiment for horses as companions. Furthermore, they take issue with the way horse-slaughterers transport the animals from auction to the plant.

Local activists such as Gail Vacca criticize Cavel for transporting horses in trailers designed for cows and chickens. The trailers don’t provide adequate head room for larger animals such as horses, she said.

“That is not an argument we are disputing,” Tucker said, “but I’m not saying we feel there should be government intervention.”

Tucker said they do not want the animals to be bruised or cut and that Cavel tries to deal with truckers who provide enough head room for horses.

Local activists are not satisfied.

Vacca said she is disappointed with the state house for not passing a bill that would have outlawed export of horse meat for consumption.

“We are not done fighting this. We won’t stop until they are closed,” Vacca said.

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