Welfare groups praise Illinois decision on slaughter bid

April 5, 2009

Two welfare organisations have welcomed a decision by the Illinois House of Representatives to oppose a bid that would have reopened the way for slaughter in the state.

Illinois was home to the last operating horse slaughter plant in the United States, at DeKalb, which closed in 2007 under state laws.

On April 1, state Representative Jim Sacia called for a vote on his bill to overturn the horse slaughter ban.

However, with the measure losing in a vote, he used a measure called "tabling" which removes the bill from consideration before failure.

The institute alleges he did this so he could have more time to try to gain further votes. He had until the end of April 3 to try and have the bill considered before the House, which proved unsuccessful.

Chris Heyde, the institute's deputy director of government and legal affair, said the the Illinois General Assembly remained in session until May 31, "so we must remain vigilant to ensure this legislation does not come up again".

"It is a real shame," he said, "to see Representative Sacia waste so much of his colleagues' time on an issue advocating horse abuse, with so many pressing issues to consider before the end of the session.

"The original ban was strongly supported by the residents of Illinois and the majority of Americans. Overturning it would re-establish a cruel industry and only benefit a foreign owned horse slaughterhouse," Heyde said.

"The truth that horse slaughter is cruel and perpetuates irresponsibility is irrefutable, which is why support for ending horse slaughter remains high. The majority of legislators in Illinois realise this is a bad bill and we are sure this sentiment will continue to hold.

"Maintaining the state ban in Illinois is crucial because it closed the last operating horse slaughter facility in the US," noted Heyde.

The Equine Welfare Alliance similarly applauded the stance of the house.

Alliance representatives John Holland and Vicki Tobin alleged Sacia's legislation would have violated two federal laws. They said it would have removed federal meat inspections in direct violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (Title 21-Food and Drugs, Chapter 12-Meat Inspection) and would have further violated the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Act.

The pair disputed several arguments offered by Sacia in support of his bill.

"He told legislators of 60 horses that were abused and neglected in Cole County because of the closure of Cavel [slaughter plant], but these animals had been seized while Cavel was still operating.

"Sacia claimed that there were no veterinarians who opposed the captive bolt method of stunning even though he had been provided with documentation from the Veterinarians for Equine Welfare containing precisely such opposition.

"Sacia then incorrectly stated that it is illegal to bury a horse in Illinois. He further stated that there was only one Illinois horsemen's group opposing his legislation when in fact ... seven other equine welfare organisations opposed the legislation.

"Even though Representative Sacia's breathtaking flight of factual fantasy went largely unchallenged, it was not sufficient to carry the day. Sixty votes were needed for a victory. With the vote at 67 against, 50 in favour, Representative Sacia stopped the voting rather than let due process take its course."

"With every attempt by Representative Sacia to repeal the anti-slaughter law, the message was the same: No. Undoubtedly, Sacia will resurrect the legislation and once again waste the legislature's time and taxpayer dollars both of which could be better spent on helping the citizens of Illinois recover from a devastated economy."

If ever there was a need for a double jeopardy clause for legislation, Sacia's bill is the stellar example, they said.