Thursday, November 20, 2003

Legislation on horse slaughtering put on hold

By Kurt Erickson
Capitol bureau chief

SPRINGFIELD -- It appears that a controversial horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb will be allowed to reopen.

The Belgian-owned Cavel International plant received a green light Wednesday when a Chicago lawmaker announced he would not press forward with legislation that would have banned slaughtering at the facility if the meat was meant for human consumption.

State Rep. Robert Molaro, D-Chicago, said he would not call Senate Bill 1921 out of respect for the late state Rep. Dave Wirsing, who represented the DeKalb area.

Wirsing, who opposed the legislation, died Sunday and will be buried Friday.

"I couldn't, in good conscience, call for a vote on the bill," said Molaro, who said the legislation could be revisited in January.

The delay, however, will give Cavel enough time to get the operation up and running after the plant had been shuttered for over a year because of a fire. It is expected to employ about 40 workers.

Attempts to reach representatives at Cavel were not successful Wednesday.

Molaro's decision came a day after a House committee voted 7-3 in favor of banning the slaughtering of horses if the meat is meant to be eaten by humans.

At that hearing, Cavel attorney Brett Brown said it was unfair to push the bill through the General Assembly while the DeKalb area was without representation in the wake of Wirsing's death.

Animal rights activists, including horse-racing groups and humane societies, viewed the legislation as a way to block the plant from reopening.

The plant is one of three in the United States that produces horse meat to be sent to Europe and Japan for human consumption.

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

Contact Kurt Erickson at kerickson@springnet1.com