April 15, 2004

 

 Illinois legislators weigh in on horse slaughter

Posted April 1, 2004

On Feb. 6, Illinois Rep. Robert Molaro introduced new legislation, H.B. 6570, to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the state of Illinois.

Molaro first introduced the legislation this past October, after learning that Cavel International, a horse slaughter plant in Dekalb County, planned to reopen. The plant burned down in 2002 and is one of only three horse slaughter facilities in the United States.

In the United States, horses are deemed companion animals, and many people are outraged by the thought of eating them. Many European countries, however, consume horsemeat. Horse slaughter facilities say they are offering a service, by providing food that countries want and humanely disposing of animals that have outlived their usefulness.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has taken the stance that "the processing of unwanted horses is currently a necessary aspect of the equine industry and provides a humane alternative to allowing the horse to continue a life of discomfort and pain, and possibly inadequate care or abandonment." The AVMA endorses this position.

At press time, Molaro's bill had been tabled.

The other two horse slaughter facilities, Beltex Corp and Dallas Crown Inc., are located in Texas. They are also facing action from their state (see JAVMA, Aug. 15, 2003). In late 2002, the Texas attorney general, with nudging from animal rights activists, informed the companies that they were violating a 1949 law that made the sale, possession, or transfer of horsemeat for human consumption illegal. The companies filed suit against the district attorneys in Fort Worth and Kaufman, the locations of the two plants, and then obtained a temporary injunction from a federal judge, which allows them to operate until a final decision in the case is handed down.

Only District Attorney Ann Diamond has brought a countersuit against the facility in her jurisdiction, Beltex in Fort Worth. She says that both sides filed motions for summary judgment in early December. "(The judge) could rule any day now, or it could be months," Diamond said in March.

Because the issue is also playing out on a federal level, the outcome of the battles in Illinois and Texas may, in fact, not matter. This past year, Rep. John Sweeney of New York introduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 857 (see JAVMA, Feb. 15, 2004). It has been in the House Committees on Agriculture, International Relations, and Ways and Means since spring 2003.