SPRINGFIELD - Three years after a proposal to ban the slaughter of horse meat for human consumption failed, Illinois lawmakers are again making a push to abolish the practice. The proposed ban, which passed the Illinois House Wednesday 74-41, heads to the Senate where lawmakers will decide whether to send it to the desk of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. A similar proposal passed the Senate in 2004 before fizzling in the House. If approved, the measure would permanently halt operations at Cavel International's DeKalb plant. The plant, which slaughters about 1,000 horses a week and ships the meat around the world, was shut down late last month after federal on-site inspectors were ordered out over funding issues. State Rep. Bob Molaro, D-Chicago, said horses are recognized as companion animals and enjoy a higher stature that elevates them above slaughter for consumption. But state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, disagreed with Molaro's assertion and said, if the ban is adopted, it will cost the people of his area. “The plant employs 55 people. They are good-paying jobs,” he said. “If you look at the total economic package of this facility in the community you are talking about $18 million.” But Molaro suggested that the plant could be retrofitted to accommodate the slaughter of cattle and save the jobs. Actress and horse breeder Bo Derek, famous for her roles in the movies 󈫺” and “Tommy Boy,” was on hand to support the proposal. Derek said she was not convinced by arguments against the bill that suggested that the slaughter helps to control the horse population. “We have almost 900,000 horses die naturally or are euthanized in this country every year,” she said. “Illinois can't be unique that they need horse slaughter; it doesn't exist anywhere else in the country.” The legislation is House Bill 1711. Blackwell Thomas can be reached at Blackwell.Thomas@lee.net or at (217) 789-0865.