Actress effective weapon against horse-slaughtering facility

Published: May 22, 2004

COLUMNIST: Aaron Chambers
Actress effective weapon against horse-slaughtering facility
The Senate passes legislation to prevent Cavel International Inc. from reopening.

By AARON CHAMBERS, Register Star Springfield Bureau
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I watched the power of sex and celebrity rule politics at a party for a geriatric horse and '70s hard body Bo Derek.

I saw lawmakers and lobbyists -- almost exclusively men, of course -- come in droves from their work at the Capitol to the yard of the historic Passfield House a block away.

They met Lucky, a 25-year-old black horse condemned to slaughter in 1987 at the age of 8. Lucky demonstrates a horse's long-term value, they were told, and that he's why the Legislature should block a DeKalb facility from slaughtering horses and exporting the meat to Europe and Asia for people to eat.

Lucky pulled a carriage for 10 years after being plucked from a slaughterhouse. He acts with a horse theater company in Chicago. Kids like him.

But the horse played second chair to Derek, 47, the beauty who was the perfect 10 in the 1979 film "10." She commanded the evening.

"We had to reach deep down and get someone that somebody would listen to," said Rep. Bob Molaro, D-Chicago. "And we know that's going to be Bo Derek."

Molaro argues that horses are sacred in American culture, and Illinois shouldn't let them end up as somebody's dinner.

HE SPONSORED A bill to prevent Cavel International Inc. from reopening its DeKalb facility -- its old facility burned down -- but came up short on votes.

Not this time around. On Wednesday, the day after Bo Derek captivated the Capitol reception, the bill sailed through a Senate committee. On Thursday, it passed the full chamber by a healthy margin.

I heard lobbyists remark that they should retain Derek to promote their own causes. I imagine they were kidding, but she was, indeed, effective.

She said horses aren't treated humanely when they're transported to slaughter and when they're killed. The standard method involves jolting them unconscious with a captive bolt gun, then cutting their arteries and bleeding them to death.

Derek also hit the emotional link people have with horses. "We don't raise them for food," she said. "They're raised as pets or for sport."

Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo, met Derek as the center of a crowd formed around her at the party, and he introduced himself as somebody likely to vote against the measure.

She debated with him for a minute, then took him by the hand and whisked him away from the crowd.

"For all you lobbyists here," Molaro shouted, "that's how you lobby someone."

SHE BROKE FROM Sieben a couple of minutes later and cheered: "OK, I did it." She moved to her next subject.

She hadn't done it, at least not in Sieben's case; he went on to vote against the bill. So did Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, and Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Clare.

But they were in the minority.

And Burzynski, whose district would host the horse slaughterhouse, had a rough week. He argues the Cavel plant would help DeKalb's economy. He tried to fend off Derek and the force behind her.

"I've had better days," Burzynski said Wednesday just before the Senate committee steamrolled the bill over his opposition.

"You know, the sad thing is these issues just become so emotional," he told me Friday. "People have humanized horses, and what do you do?"

It was a powerful blonde force.

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