A state lawmaker again is trying to lift a ban that forbids horse slaughter in Illinois.
State Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, said he has introduced similar legislation every year since the ban went into effect in 2007. That ban led to the shutdown of Cavel International in DeKalb, which had been the last horse slaughtering plant in the country.
“I have raised and shown and loved horses my entire life,” Sacia said. “I have nine. I would never send them to a slaughterhouse.”
But having slaughterhouses in the U.S. needs to be a viable alternative, Sacia stressed. With none open in the country, horses often are starved or turned loose, or sent to Mexico or Canada. Dozens can be stuffed into a semitrailer and then ride for 20 hours to a slaughterhouse, he said, where the conditions are worse than they are in the U.S.
“Their end-of-life issue is the most horrible you can imagine,” Sacia said.
Jordan Matyas, the Illinois state director for the Humane Society of United States, said opponents have stopped similar measures for the past two years and are confident they will prevail again.
“We oppose any efforts to reopen horse slaughter in Illinois,” Matyas said. “Horses are companion animals. The public spoke very loudly and clearly when we voted to stop horse slaughter in Illinois.”
Sending a horse to a slaughterhouse is never humane, Matyas said, noting the more compassionate method is to euthanize the animals. That costs about the same as one month of care for a horse, Matyas said.
State Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Rochelle, and state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, both said they would support the proposed measure. Burzynski and Pritchard – Cavel International is in their legislative districts – both opposed the ban when it was approved in 2007.
While some may consider horses companion animals, Pritchard notes that others consider them farm animals used for work, he said. For the latter, going to a slaughterhouse may be part of that animal’s economic and life cycle, he said.
“It deals with giving people options,” Pritchard said of the proposed legislation.
Burzynski noted lifting the ban means Cavel could possibly reopen, providing jobs for local residents. Cavel generated $20 million in annual revenues and employed 60 people before the business was shuttered. The Cavel facility now is used to slaughter sheep and goats in accordance to Muslim dietary rules.
Sacia said he knows the ban likely never will be lifted but that he refuses to give up. He said the measure should clear the House, and he’s “hopeful” for its chances in the Senate.
“It’s a very, very volatile issue,” Sacia said. “Very sadly, those that think they are being advocates for saving horses are absolutely creating a situation far worse than a humane end-of-life termination.”
Sacia’s proposed measure has been granted a hearing for 2 p.m. today in the House’s Agriculture & Conservation Committee.