Our Opinion: Horse Slaughter Ban Should Not be Repealed

February 27, 2009

HERE'S AN interesting contrast:

Page 1 of Wednesday's State Journal-Register featured a story about an anonymous donor whose gift of more than $400 to the Sangamon County Animal Control Center saved the lives of eight dogs and cats that otherwise would have been euthanized. These animals were left over from a weekend event in which the center drastically reduced its adoption prices to find homes for unclaimed animals in its care.


The fate of too many horses: the bleed tank.

It was a happy story, complete with a photo of volunteer Kelley Anderson snuggling Brownie, an orange-and-white tabby who would have been destroyed but, thanks to the anonymous gift, can now be adopted for free.

Then there was this headline on Tuesday on www.sj-r.com: "Horse slaughtering bill advances in House."

WHILE ANIMAL LOVERS in Springfield worked to ensure that dogs and cats at the pound might become companions to people, an Illinois House committee heard arguments from people who want the right to sell their companion animals to be slaughtered in Illinois and eaten outside the U.S.

Should this measure come up for a vote before the full House, we have a suggestion: Let's not return Illinois to its pre-2007 role as one of only two states that provide horse meat to the rest of the world.

DESPITE CLAIMS from those who long for a return of horse slaughtering at the Cavel plant in DeKalb, horses are companion animals just as are the dogs and cats saved this week at the Sangamon County shelter. Unlike domestic livestock raised as food, horses retain a fight-or-flight instinct that makes the trip to the slaughterhouse and the activity therein a harrowing and inhumane experience. (Yes, we are sidestepping the arguments from those who believe the same is true for all livestock.) More than anything, horse slaughter is a chance for irresponsible owners to make a few hundred dollars off an unwanted horse rather than paying a few hundred dollars to humanely euthanize and dispose of it.

If the backers of this bill are indeed more concerned about the welfare of unwanted horses than the profit incentive for their owners, they should put their efforts toward establishing low-cost euthanasia options. There is a reason it is illegal to sell horse meat in this country. Illinois needn't turn back the clock to add horse meat to our list of agricultural exports.

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