New bill could end U.S. horse slaughter
Two bills introduced to House of Representatives--Gerold Shelton - Senior Reporter, Northern Star
"Two new horse protection bills introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives could have serious implications for a local horse-slaughtering plant.
One bill, introduced to committee earlier this month, would ban horse slaughtering in the United States. Both bills were introduced to committees of the House earlier this month. [Editor's note: These bills are HR503, which would ban all horse slaughter and S297, which would reinstate wild horse protection preventing slaughter of wild horses and burros.]
Cavel International, a Belgium-based company, reopened in February 2004 after a March 2002 fire destroyed the DeKalb facility at 108 Harvestore Drive. Police suspected arson in the incident, which caused $2 million in damage, according to a September 2003 Northern Star article. Cavel slaughters horses for their meat, which is exported for consumption in Europe.
Last year, the bill had 228 co-sponsors, but the bill died in committee.
James Tucker, manager of Cavel International in DeKalb, said the bills were "a misguided effort at animal lawfare."
"They are not really about animal lawfare. They are a few people’s opinions about how horses should be euthanized," Tucker said. "In terms of legislation, I don’t feel the government should be deciding for horse owners how the owners dispose of their horses. If I was a farmer, I would be incensed if they said we have to put our animals down in a certain way."
Representatives from local protest groups said they support both of the new bills. Getting them passed would be ideal because it would end horse slaughter in the United States.
"Last year we had more than enough co-sponsors to support the bill," said Gwen Dodt, president of the NIU chapter of the National Student Horse Protection Coalition. "Now we have to get the support again. We don’t have the money the other side has."
Another bill would reinstate a ban on the sale of wild horses and burros. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Resources. A ban on the sale of wild horses and burros was lifted last year after a bill was attached to the 2005 Federal Appropriations Bill, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
"We don’t really want wild horses," Tucker said. "They are usually not good quality and there are really not many of them." [Editor's note: There is discrepancy on this issue. Read the article from THIS POST. In an interview with a horsemeat butcher in Europe, the butcher maintains that 'wild horse' is preferred over all other horses because the meat is drug-free. '...European horse butchers have no such worries about United States imports. 'They're wild horses,' said Märki, 'The taste (of their meat) is very, very good -- extra(ordinary).']
Tucker said there are only 30,000 to 40,000 wild horses in the United States, a small proportion compared to the 80,000 to 100,000 horses slaughtered for industry every year.
Despite criticism, business at the plant is doing well, he said.
"We look at our operation as a business that is operating in Illinois and has been for the last 18 years," Tucker said. "We operate a business that is recognized as a type of business that has existed in this country forever." [Editor's note: these slaughterhouses operate 'under the radar,' attracting as little attention as possible because Americans abhor the thought of eating horsemeat. Horses are viewed as companion animals in America. Some bring up the point that slaughtering horses is akin to slaughtering our homeless cats and dogs and sending them to the Vietnamese.]
The plant, which is one of three horse-slaughtering facilities in the United States, employs 40 people and has a kill capacity of 500 horses per week, he said.
Since the plant reopened, the police have not had any reports of vandalism or direct threats to Cavel, DeKalb Police Lt. Jim Kayes said.