Illinois Bill to Repeal Horse Slaughter Ban Fails
An Animal Rights Article from


Animal Law Coalition
March 2010

Illinois legislators understood that banning horse slaughter does not lead to an increase in abandoned or unwanted horses; that is a myth and studies have shown stories planted in the media about numbers of unwanted or abandoned horses are simply false.

Though Rep. Jim Sacia, sponsor of H.B. 4812, a bill to repeal the 2007 ban on horse slaughter for human consumption, said he had the votes to pass this bill in the state House of Representatives, he has pulled the bill. It is dead for this session.

Illinois legislators understood that banning horse slaughter does not lead to an increase in abandoned or unwanted horses; that is a myth and studies have shown stories planted in the media about numbers of unwanted or abandoned horses are simply false. Horse slaughter actually enables overbreeding, creating a secondary or salvage market. Horse slaughter is driven by a demand for horse meat generally consumed as a pricey delicacy in some foreign countries. 92% or more of horses purchased and sent to slaughter are healthy. This is a for profit practice that should not be subsidized by Illinois taxpayers.

Horse slaughter is a seedy practice that leads to an increase in horse theft, and leaves communities where slaughtering facilities have been located, with significant negative impacts ranging from nuisance odors to chronic sewer and environmental violations.

Also, the U.S. has never tracked drugs that may be in horses sent to slaughter for human consumption. The European Union has realized just how dangerous horse meat may be for consumers and has issued guidelines regarding these horses. This only underscores horses are not a food animal; they are our companions and pets.


A state of the art pre-treatment system was built in DeKalb, Illinois in 2004 for the horse slaughter facility owned there by Cavel International, Inc. That horse slaughter operation even had special Industrial Waste Permits that allowed much higher (8 times higher) contamination levels for wastewater leaving the slaughter house. But, the Cavel horse slaughter house was still not in compliance. It was not out of compliance a few times. This facility was in significant non-compliance hundreds of times. This does not include the numerous safety violations documented by the FSIS.

Cavel discharged about 13,000 gallons of wastewater each day from the more than 500 horses slaughtered each week. The wastewater contained excessive levels of decomposition and waste from slaughtered horses. In one report A Cavel employee acknowledges "chunks" from slaughtered horses were oozing out of tanks.

The DeKalb Sanitary District levied a total of $80,500 for violations from 2006 until the facility was finally closed in 2007. At one point Cavel tried to avert discharge from the facility from entering the District's collection system.

As with other slaughter houses in the U.S., the Dekalb operation created no good jobs and paid no taxes; it was of no benefit at all to the community, only a detriment.

What happened at the Committee hearing

The bill did pass the Agriculture Committee. Opponents of this bill crowded the hearing room, but the impression of many in attendance was that the committee had already made up its mind. Bob Molaro, former Illinois state representative and sponsor of the 2007 ban on horse slaughter, testified against Rep. Jim Sacia's effort to turn back the clock and allow horse slaughter in Illinois. Vicki Tobin, founder and vice-president of the Illinois-based Equine Welfare Alliance, Gail Vacca, founder of the Illinois Equine Humane Center, and Chris Heyde, Deputy Legislative Director of the Animal Welfare Institute also appeared in opposition to the bill.

Sacia spoke in support of his bill, claiming there are untold numbers of abandoned and neglected horses and slaughter in Mexico is not humane.

Tobin says she is confident the bill will not pass.

For more on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition's report below.

Original report: Illinois state Rep. Jim Sacia has wasted no time this year in introducing H.B. 4812, a bill to repeal the state's 2007 ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption. Similar bills introduced by Rep. Sacia in 2008 and 2009 failed to pass.

Rep. Sacia's bill, H.B. 4812, would also allow horses to be shipped into the state for slaughter for human consumption with no certificate of veterinary inspection contrary to current state law governing horses. 510 ILCS 65/4 The new law would also exempt downed, sick, diseased, lame or disabled horses from the requirements of the Humane Care for Animals Act governing animals in this condition. 510 ILCS 70/5, 7.5

This means Rep. Sacia and the interests he represents in the horse slaughter underworld understand that horse slaughter is brutal and cruel and so would want to exempt their sordid practice from the animal cruelty laws and inspection requirements.

To mask its harsh treatment of horses, the bill would also establish an Equine Assistance Rescue Fund that would theoretically provide funds for equine rescue organizations and increase facilities and programs for the care and maintenance of rescued horses. But the plan is to fund this, in part, through a $25 per horse fee for each horse slaughtered in Illinois.

The bill would exempt horsemeat produced by an Illinois slaughter house from labeling requirements under the Illinois Horse Meat Act, 225 ILCS 635/13

Of course, it is not legal in the U.S. to slaughter horses for human consumption. But Rep. Sacia is working to change that. Illinois banned horse slaughter in 2007, which along with Congressional action and a federal court ruling, closed the remaining horse slaughter houses in the U.S., one of which was located in Dekalb, Illinois.

Return to Animal Rights Articles