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Cavel plant gets go-aheadHorse-slaughtering bill dropped for now out of respect for Wirsing

SPRINGFIELD - It appears that a controversial horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb will be allowed to reopen. The Belgian-owned Cavel International plant received a green light Wednesday when a Chicago lawmaker announced he would not press forward with legislation that would have banned slaughtering at the facility if the meat was meant for human consumption. Rep. Robert Molaro, D-Chicago, said he would not call Senate Bill 1921 out of respect for the late Rep. Dave Wirsing, who represented the DeKalb area. Wirsing, who opposed the legislation, died Sunday and will be buried Friday. "I couldn't, in good conscience, call for a vote on the bill," said Molaro, who said the legislation could be resurrected in January. The delay, however, will give Cavel enough time to get the operation up and running after the slaughterhouse was destroyed by a fire in March 2002. It is expected to employ about 40 workers. "It doesn't affect our plans at all," Cavel Project Manager Jim Tucker said about Molaro's decision to drop the bill, even if only temporarily. He said the plant will be rebuilt by next month and will begin operating by some time early next year. He also reiterated his contention that those behind the bill are a small but vocal minority and that there won't be enough support in the General Assembly as a whole to make it law. "There are some groups that are targeting us because we're an easy target," he said. Molaro's decision came a day after a House committee voted 7-3 in favor of banning the slaughtering of horses if the meat is meant to be eaten by humans. At that hearing, Cavel attorney Brett Brown said it was unfair to push the bill through the General Assembly while the DeKalb area was without representation in the House in the wake of Wirsing's death. Animal rights activists, including horse racing groups and humane societies, viewed the legislation as a way to block the plant from reopening. The plant is one of three in the United States that produces horse meat to be sent to Europe and Japan for human consumption. The legislation is contained in an amendment to Senate Bill 1921. --- Daily Chronicle City Editor Chris Rickert contributed to this report. Kurt Erickson can be reached at kerickson@springnet1.com.

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