Illinois law means end to horse slaughter in US

Friday, May 25, 2007

Horse meat prepared in the Japanese basashi style.
Image: Richard W.M. Jones.

Legislation banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in Illinois, was signed into law today by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

"It’s past time to stop slaughtering horses in Illinois and sending their meat overseas. I’m proud to sign this law that finally puts an end to this practice," Governor Blagojevich said.

Most states in the United States have already outlawed horse slaughter. Illinois was the last state with an operating slaughterhouse. At the beginning of the year there were also two slaughterhouses in Texas. That state has had a ban since 1949, but it was not being enforced. A lawsuit ended with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declining to hear further appeals, forcing them to shut down in March.

Sid Miller, a State Representative in Texas and the chairperson for the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, has sponsored legislation to repeal the 1949 ban. However, his last proposal died in committee.

"People were selling horses not knowing that they were being used and treated like livestock and ended up on the slaughter room floor," said Illinois Senator John Cullerton. "This bill will ensure that using horses for the purpose of human consumption is illegal throughout the State of Illinois just as it is in 48 other states in the nation."

"There is no domestic market for horsemeat and, therefore, no need for this practice to continue in Illinois," State Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. "Meat from the slaughtered horses is being shipped overseas to places like Belgium, France and Japan."

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States told CBS News that 100,800 horses were slaughtered in the United States, last year, with a further 30,000 horses being sent to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

Opponents of the new law say horses should be considered to be in the same category as cattle or other livestock. They say that horses are killed humanely. They point out that the slaughterhouses provide jobs.

The consumption of horse meat has a long history, but in some cultures it is considered taboo. Some places it is a delicacy, and yet others it is just another staple food.