A galloping effort to bring horse slaughterhouses back to Illinois is dividing animal-rights activists.
The founder and president of the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society, Donna Ewing, is applauding a bill hoping to repeal the 3-year-old ban on commercial horse slaughter for human consumption overseas, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"Our whole goal is the quality of life while the animals are alive...and their quality of death," Ewing said. "It's immaterial what (happens to the carcasses) after the death."
Ewing stressed putting down horses is a "necessary evil" but pointed out the animals' end their lives with less pain than being abandoned or left to starve to death.
Not all hippophiles agree with that sentiment.
Illinois Equine Humane Center president Gail Vacca labeled the practice "completely inhumane." Vacca is joining others pushing for Congress to pass the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act to outlaw domestic horse slaughtering for foreign food consumption.
Some animal welfare activists believe America must stop feeding foreign countries' delicacy cravings.
"Horse slaughter isn't about our excess horses," Vacca said. "It's about the demand for our horses in Europe and Asia."
When the Illinois General Assembly banned horse slaughterhouses in the state in 2007, it shut down the last domestic plant in the country. The Cavel International plant operated in Dekalb for about two decades generating $30 million dollars in foreign trade revenue.
Horse owner and State Representative Jim Sacia, the bill's sponsor, said horses deserve to die locally without having to undergo the stress of being shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada. Sacia speculated Cavel would return if lawmakers reversed their decision.
The prospect of jobs coming back to Illinois' struggling economy may settle this round of the emotionally-charged debate.