Illinois Horse Slaughter Legislation

by: Les Sellnow

New legislation to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the state of Illinois was introduced Feb. 6, 2004, in the Illinois House of Representatives in the form of HB 6570. On Feb. 18, 2004, the bill was referred to the House Executive Committee. The legislation would also make it illegal to transport horses into or out of the state for slaughter.

The wording of the newly introduced bill, says an aide to Rep. Robert S. Molaro of Chicago, chief sponsor of the legislation, is basically the same as that for Senate Bill 1921 that was introduced earlier, but which remains in the House Rules Committee. The chief sponsors of SB 1921 were Molaro in the House and Sen. Christine Radogno of the 41st district, Lamont, Illinois, in the Senate.

One of the goals of the legislation, according to statements from Molaro and supporters of the bill, is to prevent the Cavel International slaughter plant in DeKalb, Ill., from reopening. The original plant was destroyed by fire in March of 2002. James Tucker, comptroller for Belgian-owned Cavel International, says that construction on the new plant is nearing completion. He said that it will open in early April. The capacity of the newly constructed plant will be 100 horses per day.

The anti-slaughter legislation has produced a clash between the Horsemen's Council of Illinois and a plethora of industry associations, welfare organizations, and animal rights activist groups. Those groups favor the anti-slaughter bill, and the Horsemen's Council of Illinois opposes it.

Bonnie Chandler, association manager, says the Horsemen's Council of Illinois is comprised of 500 individual members and 65 organizational members. The organization is affiliated with the American Horse Council.

One of the organization's spokespersons is R.D. (Dean) Scoggins, DVM, who has served as equine extension veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine for some 27 years. Scoggins also is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

In a letter to the legislative committee considering the bill in November of 2003, Scoggins said that he had visited the Cavel plant on at least 10 different occasions when it was in operation. He said that the captive bolt method for killing the horses "is considered by persons qualified in neurology and anesthesia as one of the most humane means of death of available." He said that, in his observations, the captive bolt method was effective in immediately stunning a horse. "I have not seen a partially stunned horse."

Some opponents to that form of euthanasia take the position that the captive bolt method is inhumane because it often only partially stuns a horse.

Senate Bill 1921 to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in Illinois was first introduced in the Senate on Feb. 20, 2003. It was passed out by both the Rules and Executive committees and arrived in the House on March 27, 2003. The last action on the bill was taken Dec. 22, 2003, when it was re-referred to the House Rules Committee.

Based on comments from both sides in the dispute, the re-introduction of a bill (in this case House Bill 6570, which is basically the same as SB 1921) is a strategy that is sometimes employed when there are indications that the original bill might remain bottled up in committee.