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Local activists' work is not nearly done

DeKALB - Gov. Rod Blagojevich's signing Thursday of a bill to ban horse slaughter in Illinois doesn't mean the work of local anti-horse-slaughter activists is done. Angela Valianos of Sycamore is one of a group of activists nationwide that has been lobbying vociferously to outlaw the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Likely numbering in the thousands, the activists have used e-mail, Internet message boards and cell phones to keep up on the latest developments in the fight and to flood local, state and federal lawmakers with pleas to end the practice. But even as the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States - the Cavel International plant in DeKalb - will apparently cease operation, Valianos wasn't letting up. She sat in her Ford minivan Friday, cell phone in hand, and began her vigil near Cavel at 3:30 a.m. Cavel employees began arriving at 4 a.m., she said. &#8220They're all in there in their slaughter garb,” she said. &#8220I don't know what that means.” As of 8 a.m. Friday she said she hadn't seen any trucks loaded with horses arriving at the plant. A few minutes later, a refrigerator truck pulled up to the plant's gates, and a man in a butcher coat was in the parking lot. Valianos got the truck's U.S. Department of Transportation number from the side of the hauler. Cavel International Manager Jim Tucker would not comment Friday morning. Valianos said other activists have already called airlines that may be transporting the Cavel products overseas to let them know that the slaughter of horses for human consumption is illegal in Illinois. She has been working on ending horse slaughter in DeKalb for sometime, but she's been one of the loudest voices along with Dawn Mancina. Both women worked on getting information from the DeKalb Sanitary District on hormones and other potential toxins they say were in the horse meat and Cavel's wastewater. District officials have said that until the U.S. Department of Agriculture or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines the allowable amount of chemicals in the meat, there is nothing the sanitary district can do. Around 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Mancina posted a note on a message board on Timwoolleyracing.com about collecting donations to help save horses headed to Cavel on Thursday, Valianos said. Those donating call themselves the &#8220FOB,” or Friends of Barbaro, and were from all over the country. &#8220Six hours later we had $10,000,” Valianos said. &#8220I slept a couple of hours and then we had $14,000. When I was on my way to Cavel at 3 a.m. (Thursday), a woman gave us $3,000. We have close to $20,000. We had kids emptying their piggy banks. We had a lot of people who have never met each other getting together for a common cause.” The donated money couldn't be used on Thursday because Cavel had already promised the horse sellers the plant would purchase the animals. When the plant was closed in March, sellers bringing the horses to the plant lost out on transportation fees and the animals' selling price. The group had hoped to purchase the horses and take them to rescue farms like Field of Dreams in Elburn, Sue Balla said. The money raised will be used to help purchase pregnant mares and foals at BelTex Corp. in Fort Worth, Texas, that are currently waiting to be sent to Mexico for slaughter. &#8220Until there's a federal ban, this isn't over,” Valianos said. Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com.

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