Pantograph News, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois

Horse-slaughter bill moves forward

By Kurt Erickson
Capitol bureau chief

SPRINGFIELD -- A state House panel approved legislation Tuesday that could stop a soon-to-reopen horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb in its tracks.

The legislation, which would ban the slaughter of horses if the meat is meant for human consumption, was sent to the House floor for further debate on a 7-3 vote of the Executive Committee.

Opponents of the measure said it was unfair to ram the bill through the General Assembly in the final days of the fall veto session because the DeKalb area is without representation in the House following the death of state Rep. David Wirsing on Sunday.

"We are absolutely without representation in our district," said DeKalb attorney Brett Boone, who is representing the owners of the slaughterhouse, Cavel International.

Wirsing, a Sycamore Republican, who represented the area, opposed the legislation that could result in the loss of up to 40 jobs at the Belgian-owned plant.

The bill's sponsor, however, said he would press forward with the measure and could call it for a vote by Friday, the same day Wirsing is laid to rest.

"Out of respect, I'd love to hold the bill," said state Rep. Robert Molaro, D-Chicago. "But, if I don't call it today, it won't become effective until next July and Cavel wants to open the plant before then."

Animal rights activists, ranging from horse-racing groups to the Humane Society of Central Illinois , have been trying to block the plant from reopening after it burned down last year.

The plant -- one of three in the United States -- ships horse meat overseas for human consumption. Most Americans don't eat horse meat but many Europeans do.

One activist said Illinoisans should be against "turning Seabiscuit into Seabrisket."

Molaro said horses should not be killed because they are treated more like cats and dogs than other types of livestock.

"We'd have the dubious distinction, save for Texas, of being the only state in the nation that allows the slaughter of horses for human consumption," said Molaro.

But Jim Tucker, project manager for Cavel, said opponents of the plant are a vocal minority.

"We don't feel it's a large issue," said Tucker.

The legislation is contained in an amendment to Senate Bill 1921.