Cavel: returning to DeKalb
October 21, 2003
Cavel takes ‘risk’
Horse-slaughtering plant set to reopen DeKalb location amid controversy

Article by:
Mark Bieganski - Editor in Chief
Personal profile


Despite the introduction of new Illinois legislation that would ban the slaughtering of horses for exportation, plans for the reconstruction of Cavel International will continue.

Cavel is a Belgium-owned company with a plant at 108 Harvestore Drive, just south of Interstate 88. It’s one of three horse-slaughtering plants nationwide.

The plant burned down on Easter 2002, causing nearly $2 million in damage. In September 2003, owners of the facility announced plans to rebuild the plant, which is slated to open in early 2004.

Government response
On Oct. 3, Rep. Robert Molaro (D-Chicago) filed a bill with the Illinois General Assembly that would amend the Illinois Horse Meat Act. Under the new bill, it would become illegal to slaughter a horse; possess, import or export slaughtered horse meat; or export a horse knowing it will be slaughtered.

Molaro did not return phone calls about this report.

It is illegal to eat horse meat in the United States. However, it is legal to slaughter horses and export their meat to other countries. Most horse meat is exported to European countries.

Rep. David Wirsing (R-Sycamore) raised concerns when he learned the bill was filed.

Cavel coverage
Past Northern Star reports

Fire engulfed Cavel building
Foul play suspected in Cavel fire; authorities still investigating blaze.

Investigators: Arson possible in Cavel fire
After two days of investigation by the DeKalb police and fire departments, federal agents were called in to investigate Tuesday.

Agencies close Cavel case
After four days of examination from local and national investigators, the probe has ceased.

Cavel timeline

March 2002
Cavel International burned to the ground, leaving nearly $2 million in damages.

February 2003
HR 857 was filed with the U.S. House of Representatives.

March 2003
HR 857 was referred to a House subcommittee.

September 2003
Cavel owners announce plans to rebuild the horse-slaughtering plant.

October 2003
HB 3845 was filed with the Illinois General Assembly.

November 2003
Illinois legislators will take part in a six-day veto session, which is the first opportunity where HB 3845 could be discussed.

January 2004
If legislators aren’t able to discuss the bill during the fall veto session, debate will take place during regular session.

Early 2004
Expected reopening of Cavel.

“I am always concerned about legislative issues when [a bill] has a direct effect on another representative’s district and not on their own,” Wirsing said. “I’ve attempted to get in contact with the sponsor of the bill, but still haven’t talked to him.”

Wirsing said there are issues concerning opposition to Cavel’s reopening, but he is opposed to the bill.

“It’s a business that’s been in my district, so they’re rebuilding what had been an existing business for a number of years,” Wirsing said.

Wirsing said the fall veto session, which will start Nov. 4 and last six days, will be the first time legislators could debate the bill. If legislators don’t find time during the veto session to debate the bill, discussion will take place in January 2004 during the regular session.

The main opposition from some people is that it doesn’t feel good to slaughter horses, but we are a meat-consuming country, Wirsing said.

Citizen reaction
NIU’s Vegetarian Education Group (VEG) will hold an informational session at 9 p.m. today at DuSable Hall, Room 459, to inform students about legislation surrounding the horse-slaughtering controversy.

VEG president Dahlia Furlager, a junior geology major, said she hopes to provide information to people who are bothered by the idea of horse slaughtering and want to do something about it.

“A lot of people don’t know very much, and instead of forming ideas about it, we want people to know,” Furlager said.

Texas resident Carol Chapman is opposed to Cavel’s reopening, and has been working for years to shut down horse-slaughtering plants in Texas.

“We are not radical; we have thousands of people across the country [interested in our cause],” Chapman said. “We want the truth out there.”

Chapman, who has toured several horse-slaughtering plants, said not only is it an economic loss to slaughter horses and ship them overseas, it also is inhumane.

DeKalb’s intentions
While activists continue to protest Cavel’s reopening, DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow said the city has no intention to stop the reconstruction as long as it abides by city regulations.

Sparrow said Cavel was approved for a special-use permit prior to the building burning down in 2002. Because the of the permit, Cavel can rebuild without going through the permit process again.

“The special-use permit was granted back before the place had even burned,” Sparrow said. “It’s not a matter of us saying they can’t go ahead. As much as I understand the sentiment of these individuals, it is not the sentiment of me.”

Sparrow, who grew up on a cattle farm, said he doesn’t see the difference between slaughtering pigs, cattle, chickens or horses.

“I’m not as attached as many of these people are to that particular animal,” Sparrow said. “I don’t agree with their arguments. Certainly, I respect their opinion, but I’m not going to convince them, and they’re not going to convince me.”

National impact
Another bill, HR 857, is being reviewed by the U.S. House of Representatives and would outlaw horse slaughtering in the United States.

The bill, “The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act,” aims to prohibit the slaughter of horses in the U.S. for human consumption and prohibit the trade and transport of horseflesh and live horses intended for human consumption and other purposes.

Congressional supporters of the bill have found that horses have played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States, and they are not raised for food or fiber.

The bill also states that about 55,000 American horses are slaughtered for human consumption annually in the United States by foreign-owned slaughterhouses; tens of thousands of live horses are exported from the United States annually for slaughter.

In March 2003, HR 857 was referred to a House subcommittee.

Sparrow said if the resolution becomes a law, Cavel is taking a gamble spending money to reconstruct operations in DeKalb.

“As of right now, it’s not outlawed, and as of right now, if they’re willing to take that risk, that’s their business,” Sparrow said.

Cavel’s stance
Food is a necessity of life; it’s not a wasting of resources, it’s a conservation of resources, said James Tucker, controller and program manager for Cavel.

“We’re not requiring anyone to bring horses here to be slaughtered,” Tucker said. “If a person chooses to send a horse here to be slaughtered, it’s their choice.”

Tucker said because humans aren’t used to hearing about how chickens, cattle and pigs are killed, they sometimes become frightened that the same thing happens to horses.

“I think for a population of people that have very little contact with their food sources, to hear how an animal is slaughtered can produce some negative emotions,” Tucker said. “The fact is that all the meat we eat is slaughtered in the same way.”

Angela Miller, a DeKalb activist against the reopening of Cavel, said when horses are transported to slaughter houses, about 100 are placed on trucks built for cattle.

“These horses are forced to travel in these conditions,” Miller said. “Some horses die; horses that do make it alive walk out into the pen and then into the [slaughterhouse].”

Miller said private horses sometimes are stolen and sold to slaughterhouses. Tucker said whenever a horse is reported stolen, its picture is placed on the wall to identify it if it comes through the slaughterhouse.

“We have not had any case where it’s been proven to us that a horse has been stolen and sold to a slaughterhouse,” Tucker said.

While the controversy over Cavel’s reopening continues, it will bring at least 40 jobs back to the DeKalb area.

“We’ll be at a better level of production than before,” Tucker said. “It will be a new building and it will be more efficient.”