IL House to Examine Horse Slaughtering Bill

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

All twelve of Lora Bertell's horses have a story.

"He's blind in one eye. They came from an animal hoarder. He was emaciated."

Lucky's story Is becoming a familiar one these days.

"Lucky was found wandering by the side of the road," she says.

While horse abandonment is not officially being tracked, more and more cases are turning up in the Stateline. Especially with the closure of our nation's last remaining horse slaughtering facility.

Since Cavel shut down in 2007, many horse owners have grown increasingly worried someone will abandon a horse on their property, leaving them the financial responsibility.

"We have to have a way of dealing with animals that come to an end of life issue," says State Representative Jim Sacia.

Euthanasia is the lawmaker and horse owner's method of choice. But knows not everyone could afford the procedure's hefty 400 plus price tag. Sacia is now trying to convince the same Illinois Legislature that voted to close the DeKalb plant to approve it be reopened. Animal rights activists argue Cavel International's use of the captive bolt is inhumane.

"They are the most disingenuous people in the world when they will allow horses to be stuffed into trailers, shipped to third world countries and have an end of life issue that's anything but humane as a opposed to having a place like we had at Cavel International in DeKalb, Illinois where every end of life was absolutely monitored by a USDA veterinarian inspector who observed every kill to make sure it was completely humane," says Sacia.

"If that's what's happening, let's stop that, because that is inhumane," says Bertell.

Like many rescue and adoption centers, Bertell says she can't afford to save any more horses right now. In fact, the Unwanted Horse Coalition reports 38-percent of horses brought to such facilities are being turned away.

"With the economic condition we find ourselves in, folks are not going out and adopting horses, they're not going out and buying horses so that option the rescue option is not a complete answer to the problem," says Frank Bowman with the Illinois Horsemen's Council.

Bertell strongly opposes legislation to reopen Cavel and hopes more foster families will come forward to find homes for horses like Lucky.

"He could have easily been at Cavel," she says.

Sacia presented legislation to reopen Cavel to the Agricultural Committee last week. It passed unanimously and will now be taken up by the full House sometime in the next two weeks.


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  • by Lora Bertell Location: Belvidere on Mar 8, 2010 at 06:39 PM
    Bob. I run a horse rescue and this is simply NOT happening! It is not the quantity of horse experience, but the quantity. Just like all breeds, there can be a bad egg that needs to be euthanized. There is not a reason to justify mass butchering of a gentle breed. Yes, the horse market, as well as ALL markets, is in the toilet. I do not believe in solving a problem by sweeping it under the rug! Just this week, I adopted out 4 horses and made room for more. Where are you getting your information, Bob. This rescue IS helping horses, NOT advocating butchering them! Bob: Get out of the Horse Industry! You're jaded!
  • by Craig Location: NJ on Mar 8, 2010 at 06:11 PM
    Horses may be classified as livestock for tax purposes, etc., Bob, but that still does not make them food animals. In practice, to many people they are pets and recreation animals, which means they are subject to be given drugs that are not to be consumed by humans. That means we have to find alternative solutions to excess horses. FOOD ANIMALS is the issue, Bob. NOT LIVESTOCK.
  • by Bob Location: IL on Mar 5, 2010 at 06:26 PM
    Horses are LIVESTOCK in the U.S. All you idiots who think that horses are not being starved or let loose, start calling all of the county animal control places as well as county police departments and they'll tell you it's true. Do you morons even own horses who want the plant to not reopen? How much horse experience do you really have?? Ever had a rank horse that wanted to kill you?, do you really want to put the training work or money into it to euthanize it, or sell it to someone else?No, you want it GONE NOW. Ever meet someone who lost their job and cannot pay for a vet and renderer?Can't give horses away now there's no market...there's too flippin many and it's not all youngstock from overbreeding.So that person has 2 choice, it starves in their backyard or they let it loose.Rescues can't take them as again,they can't place horses cause the market's flooded so they can't take anymore in.Find 10 rescues in IL alone and call them to see if they can take in any type of horses and see.
  • by Craig DiBenedictis Location: New Jersey on Mar 5, 2010 at 01:01 PM
    This is not about the welfare of horses. This is about a meat company making a lot of money while paying next to nothing in taxes, low wages to their workers, and violating sanitation laws. Why would you want that ugly thing back in your state?
  • by Craig Location: USA on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:39 AM
    Don't you people understand? Horses are not food animals in America. They are not bred for food. They are bred for work, recreation, and companionship. Therefore, they are not treated as food animals. They have toxic drugs in them that are dangerous to human health. This is where our culture and foreign cultures clash. Until we change our culture and start breeding horses for food like cattle, pigs, and chickens, they should not be slaughtered for human consumption. We are feeding our foreign neighbors poison so we can clean up our irresponsible mess of overbreeding.
  • by Lynn Location: Illinois on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:42 AM
    The problem is too much breeding! So why do they not address that? Instead associations like the American Quarter Horse Association pays their members to breed more, when the Quarter Horse is the breed most seen at the killer auctions. Bringing back horse slaughter will only keep the problem going. They will then have a place to get rid of their excess. And I was at the Cavel plant and horses were being unloaded and there was no vet or inspector on site according to the rules. And employees who have worked at these plants have admitted that many horses are not dead before they have their legs cut off or their skin removed. Horse slaughter will never be humane. Just quit breeding! Or maybe the state should encourage more rescues to open and encourage euthanasia clinics. But no they want to bring back that horrible industry. Stupid is as stupid does!
  • by Jan Location: Illinois on Mar 5, 2010 at 05:35 AM
    Same old lies. Bruce - are you aware that the DeKalb plant has been refitted and is open and employing a full staff? There goes your jobs arguement.
  • by Gail Vacca Location: Illinois on Mar 5, 2010 at 04:40 AM
    Is horse slaughter humane? You decide. In a sworn statement before Cook County, State of Illinois, a former employee [name withheld] of Cavel International, a horse slaughtering plant, testified the following: In July 1991, they were unloading one of the double-decker trucks. A horse got his leg caught in the side of the truck so the driver pulled the rig up and the horse's leg popped off. The horse was still living, and it was shaking. [Another employee] popped it on the head and we hung it up and split it open. .... Sometimes we would kill near 390, 370 a day. Each double-decker might have up to 100 on it. We would pull off the dead ones with chains. Ones that were down on the truck, we would drag them off with chains and maybe put them in a pen or we might drag them with an automatic chain to the knockbox. Sometimes we would use an electric shocker to try to make them stand. To get them into the knockbox, you have to shock them ... sometimes run them up the [anus] with the shocker. ... When we killed a pregnant mare, we would take the guts out and I would take the bag out and open it and cut the cord and put it in the trash and sometimes the baby would still be living, and its heart would be beating, but we would put it in the trashcan.
  • by Catherine Ritlaw Location: Kinman, Az. on Mar 4, 2010 at 09:21 PM
    The captive bolt DOES NOT STUN HORSES! A former USDA vet/inspector said many were skinned and gutted while CONSCIOUS! Please visit this link.*Statement of Dr. Friedlander can be read at http://www.manesandtailsorganization.org/captive_bolt.htm SLAUGHTER IS BARBARIC.
  • by Susan Location: Illinois on Mar 4, 2010 at 06:38 PM
    I live in Illinois and I do NOT want a horse slaughter plant reopened here! Their is nothing humane about slaughter by the very definition. We need to strengthen our laws to protect the horses, not weaken them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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