November 1, 2003 9:27 PM
SPRINGFIELD -- Ever been so hungry you could eat a horse?
Well, State Rep. Robert Molaro wants that to be less of an option. The Chicago lawmaker is busy cinching up support for a measure to outlaw butchering horses in Illinois.
It seems a company is about to reopen a horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb, and Molaro wants to head 'em off.
Many Americans are a bit skittish about the thought of eating Mr. Ed's relatives or picking bits of Trigger from their teeth.
But in much of Europe and Japan, a plate full of horsemeat is nothing to snort at. In fact, some consider it a delicacy.
``I've ridden horses. I have bet on horses -- not too successfully,'' Molaro said. ``I think they are absolutely beautiful animals. I think it is just wrong to kill these animals so that people in other countries can eat them.''
Dr. Jon Foreman, an equine veterinarian at the University of Illinois, says eating horsemeat doesn't pose any significant health concerns for humans. Horsemeat is inspected in the same manner as beef or pork, he said.
But for Jerry Finch, a Texas horseman, the thought is disgusting.
``It's no different than someone deciding to have a slaughter plant for dogs and shipping their meat off to Asia,'' he said.
``If killing horses for their meat is not wrong, then nothing is wrong,'' he added.
Finch is president of Habitat for Horses, a group that among other things, rescues horses that would be slaughtered otherwise. The two horse-slaughtering plants operating in the United States are in Texas and ship their meat overseas, he said.
Dr. Foreman says the nagging unease Americans have with eating horses is more a cultural one than a matter of taste.
``The bond between humans and horses is very close,'' he said. ``Fewer people are exposed to cattle, hogs, sheep or goats. But many people still have contact with horses. They are companions that can be led around or rode.''
Generally, horses that end up on the butcher's block have outlived their usefulness as riding animals or breeding stock, Foreman said. He noted a Kentucky Derby winner -- Ferdinand -- ended up on Japanese dinner tables after he failed as a stud.
James Tucker, a spokesman for Cavel International, could not be reached for comment Friday concerning his firm's plans to reopen the DeKalb slaughter plant, which burned down last year.
Despite the emotion of the issue, Molaro's bill will be decided the same way as any other. It all depends on whether it receives more ayes than nays.
Scott Reeder is the Springfield bureau chief for Small Newspaper Group. He can be reached at (217) 525-8201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.