New bills seek to halt horse slaughter

By Richard Snowden

Despite having successfully resisted previous attempts by the Illinois General Assembly to halt commercial horse slaughtering, Cavel International, Inc. could face another challenge.

Bills under consideration at the federal level seek to prohibit commercial horse slaughtering, a move which could threaten Cavel, a Belgian company that operates a horse-slaughtering facility in DeKalb at 108 Harvestore Drive.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill, H.R. 503, which would ban the sale and delivery of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption.

Another House bill, H.R. 297, would prohibit the sale or transfer of free-roaming horses found on U.S. public lands for commercial processing purposes. The two bills have been in House subcommittees since February.

A corresponding bill, S.576, is being considered by the Senate and has been in a Senate committee since March.

Jim Tucker, general manager of DeKalb’s Cavel facility, said the new federal legislation would have a negative impact on his company if passed into law.

“There are a couple of bills out there that would eliminate horse slaughtering in the United States, which would of course be disastrous for our company,” Tucker said.

Other legislation being considered at the federal level would eliminate funding for federal inspectors at horse-slaughtering facilities, a move Tucker believes is intended to undermine the practice.

“The largest objection we have to that legislation is that it was passed to committee by both houses without appropriate legislative oversight,” Tucker said. “You’d think that legislation that would strongly affect the agricultural industry would warrant better oversight.”

At the state level, the General Assembly considered a bill in its last legislative session that would have banned slaughtering of horses for human consumption. However, the bill failed to pass, said State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley).

“We dealt with the horse-slaughtering bill in the last legislative session, and we defeated it because the legislation just didn’t make sense,” Pritchard said, noting Cavel adds millions of dollars to the area’s tax base and employs more than 40 people.

Pritchard said a major objection to the bill was it failed to take horse owners’ rights into consideration.

“It didn’t give horse owners a choice,” Pritchard said. “This country is all about choice, and here they were trying to pass a bill that would’ve taken away the ability of horse owners to choose.”

The Cavel plant in DeKalb is one of only three horse-slaughtering facilities in the United States.