Not My Horse, No You Don’t

Lots of people who run for political office have high-minded, open-hearted goals. Ending poverty. Expanding employment opportunities.  Reforming public institutions.  Making health care available to everyone.  Restoring peace.

For Illinois state representative Jim Sacia, one of his stated goals is doing his best to ensure that the nation of America has a horse slaughtering facility within its borders.

Rep. Sacia publishes a weekly online column of his reflections on life; reflections that he maintains are “not political.”  On January 20, 2010, Sacia’s column was devoted to a defense of his decision to introduce legislation that would allow a horse slaughter plant to re-open in DeKalb, Illinois.  Here is his post on the subject in its entirety:

As I begin my eighth year as your State Representative, I find myself being somewhat reflective. I’ve had some successes and I’ve had some failures. All in all, the privilege of serving you still rates at least a 26 on a scale of 1 to 10.

With our state facing the worst financial crisis in its history, each and every one of the 177 members of the General Assembly must give that issue our undivided attention. That being said, I’m compelled to comment on two very polarizing issues that have created anger from people whom I believe, but for these issues, would be very different folks.

The first issue is horse slaughter. The very term makes some folks actually shudder. For the past three years, horse slaughter has been banned in the U.S. following the closing of the Cavel Plant in DeKalb, Illinois, the last facility in the country that processed horses. Those who would have you believe that humane termination of horses in this country is not acceptable have created a monster. Just as many unwanted American horses are still being slaughtered after the closing of Cavel, but now, nearly 100,000 each year are shipped to Mexico for slaughter. The horses are packed in trailers and forced to travel over forty hours to the border. Once in Mexico, it’s another eleven hours to the slaughter plant. Is that humane?

When the ban was being debated in a House committee last year, I asked the lobbyist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “How can you allow this?” She responded “We believe in responsible horse ownership.” Hello! How can that possibly be an answer?

I have spent my life raising, showing and loving horses. Nine horses still have a very good life on the Pecatonica farm Jenny and I call home. Don’t even try to defend shipping horses to Mexico to me. Horses, like every other living thing, at some point, face an end of life issue. My horses will never go to slaughter, but it needs to be an option for others. It’s time to bring it back in America. And yes, I have reintroduced the legislation.

The second polarizing issue is the proposed Bos Dairy. A.J. Bos plans to bring 5,000 milk cows to the dairy county known as Jo Daviess. Did you know that Jo Daviess has lost more than 11,000 milk cows in the past twenty years?

After listening to what some of the anti-dairy folks have been saying, I now believe I have a better understanding of how McCarthyism took off in the 1950’s and witchcraft consumed people centuries ago. Misinformation and half-truths repeated often enough to enough people are eventually accepted by some as fact. The truth is that A.J. Bos and his family are as fine a people as I’ve had the privilege to meet. They know how to build a state of the art, environmentally sound facility and they have been doing just that. There is little doubt this will be a class operation in Northwest Illinois.

I have traveled the nation and visited ten state-of-the-art large dairies built in the past ten years. Every one is a show place, and is environmentally sound. Yes, the Bos Dairy will be as well.

On March 12, 2009, Rep. Sacia’s column featured a post by his wife Jenny who took the opportunity to wax sentimental on her husband’s dedication to the couple’s own animals, and to give her views on what she calls “the NEED for horse slaughter.”  Here is the entire post by Mrs. Sacia, including the photographs, typos and words in CAPS, as it ran on Rep. Sacia’s website.  The post no longer appears in the run of columns at the legislator’s official website, but does come up on an online search under “Jenny Sacia”:

To the animal lovers out there . . . The Jim Sacia I know so well.

March 12, 2009

After sharing our lives together for 39 years, I should have a little credibility in my description. It is disheartening to hear such incorrect conclusions.

I cannot begin to list the names and accusations directed toward Jim over the horse slaughter issue. One e-mail stated “May you rot in hell you despicable vermin”. Another recent e-mail probably summarizes them all, “You sir, must be missing an aspect of a wonderful atunement to animals”.

Jim is very much “in tune” with animals and has the biggest loving heart for, and involvement with, animals you will ever find. The number of times he would not use a piece of equipment because there was a bird nest with baby birds in it, the hours of work making the hay we feed our horses, emergency trips to the vet with our dogs, or treating our horses with our vet, assisting in the vigil and then delivery of our foals (we raised Pinto/Paints for 20 years), showing and trail riding, currying and hugging them all, and not very minutes sitting in a chair without a dog in his lap ….this is the man making tough decisions.

Jim grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. You see a lot of life and death on a farm. His view regarding horse slaughter is realistic not heartless.

This is not an issue of WANTING and PROMOTING horse slaughter….it is the issue of the NEED for horse slaughter. (We are now sending 80,000 MORE horses a year to Mexico alone for slaughter since the 2006 closing of the last United States slaughter plant.) Jim has stated over and over, I will do everything in my power to never send one of my horses to a slaughter plant, because I want and love my horses. (My feelings also.) But the answer given Jim when he asked the animal rights activists “What should be done with unwanted horses?” …. was “We need responsible horse ownership”. If we had responsible parenting we would not have nearly as many problems in our society. I have a friend who told of returning from a trail ride and two strange horses were put in her trailer. A livestock dealer in our community has horses left in his sale barn. So the question still is “What should be done with unwanted horses?” …obviously we humans fail often when it comes to responsibility. Financial hard times also force unwanted decisions.  The humane ending of life for an unwanted horse, just as unwanted dogs and cats receive, is a necessity.

Very Sincerely, Jenny Sacia

Rep. Sacia’s attempt to justify his promotion of legislation to bring horse slaughter back to Illinois relies on a distinction between his own horses (that he claims would “never go to slaughter”), and “others,” for whom Sacia believes slaughter should be “an option:”

My horses will never go to slaughter, but it needs to be an option for others. It’s time to bring it back in America. And yes, I have reintroduced the legislation.

(Rep. Sacia’s echoing of President Obama’s “It’s time for a change” slogan may be unintentional.)

Mrs. Sacia’s March 2009 defense of her husband’s horse slaughter advocacy draws the same distinction as her husband later does–between the couple’s own wanted and loved horses (not to be slaughtered), and “others” (to be slaughtered):

Jim has stated over and over, I will do everything in my power to never send one of my horses to a slaughter plant, because I want and love my horses. (My feelings also.)

This is the ugly face of moral relativism in the guise of “necessity.”  Not my horses, but maybe yours.

Several statements in the posts by the Sacias demand clarification and expansion.

Rep. Sacia states that he feels “compelled to comment on two very polarizing issues that have created anger from people whom I believe, but for these issues, would be very different folks.”  This is a curious statement on several levels, including the notion that a free, white adult man living today (veteran of the FBI, and state legislator) would feel “compelled” to say or do anything.  Also, Sacia’s belief that horse slaughter “created anger” in people who would be “very different folks” but for their stand on this issue seems like a child’s wishful thinking.  At any rate, the issue that Rep. Sacia feels “compelled” to address is horse slaughter; a reprehensible act that Rep. Sacia describes as “a term” that “makes some folks actually shudder,” including, apparently, the legislator himself because he reserves this repugnant practice for “others” and not for his own family horses.

Horse slaughter is not simply a “term,” issue or concept to be debated at arms length.  It is an act of extreme violence that carries the ultimate consequence–a painful, frightening death–for the individual horse that is slaughtered.

Horse slaughter is not a “humane termination” as Sacia and others would have us believe, even as they reserve for “their own animals” the option not to be slaughtered; a reservation that is nothing more than a double standard masquerading as cultural sensitivity or a defense of a necessary evil (not for me, but for thee).

The apocryphal account in Mrs. Sacia’s post of the “friend who told of returning from a trail ride” to find abandoned horses in her trailer is the rural version of an”urban legend.”  Prove it happened anywhere.

Slaughtering horses (transportation of a live animal to a slaughter facility and butchering of the animal while it is alive) has nothing in common with euthanasia.

Many, perhaps most, of the people working to end horse slaughter also support “no-kill” options for companion animals, and oppose large scale destruction of healthy animals in shelters.

Rep. Sacia’s charges of McCarthyism and “witchcraft” against opponents of a commercial dairy operation (the “Bos Dairy”) is just plain odd, but does reveal a curious turn of mind.

The transportation of horses to slaughter houses in Mexico is inhumane by any measure and should not be tolerated.  Using one inhumanity (transporting horses to slaughter) to defend another (slaughtering horses) lacks both logic and common sense.  Any horse that lives more than a walk’s distance from DeKalb would also be forced to endure transportation in a trailer before enduring death by slaughter.

Mrs. Sacia’s lamentation about the dearth of “responsible parenting” in American society is the kind of thing one hears in some parlors along the same lines as “people who should not have children,” “people who should not buy houses” and “people who should stay in their own country.”  Ugly, to be sure, but downright scary in the context of a discussion on the “need” for horse slaughter.  Jonathan Swift would have a field day.  (The link here is to a copy of Swift’s satirical piece entitled “A Modest Proposal.”  Swift’s piece is satire, folks.  The Sacia’s, unfortunately, are not.)

The reference in Mrs. Sacia’s post to raising “Pinto/Paints for 20 years” needs a context.  Paint horses are reportedly the single most slaughtered variety of horse in America.  The reason probably has much to do with the raising of “coloured horses” for their appearance, and the concomitant “culling” of foals (baby horses) that do not meet the breeders’ standards.  Some “responsible” breeders keep or find homes for “non-conforming” foals.  Others send the “unwanted” foals to slaughter, the “option” that Rep. Sacia and others have devoted substantial time and resources to “preserving” and “defending.”  To be clear, this is the same “management option” that the Bureau of Land Management so desperately wants to exercise; the “commercial option” that irresponsible breeders, killer buyers, and horse flesh producers pay lobbyists to secure for them in back room meetings, sidebar conferences and appropriations riders because they know this “option” is one that makes most American voters shudder.

American voters.  Just plain folks, who love their families, and their animals.  Also realistic and practical folks, but maybe with a little more compassion and imagination about acceptable “end of life” options for animals that are not theirs.  Not all are city folks, but some are.  Not all have been transformed by anger into “different folks” but some have (witnessing a horse being slaughtered can do this to a person who is allowed to feel). Folks with a different idea about things.  American voters.  Just ordinary folks. Opposed to horse slaughter.

One Response to “Not My Horse, No You Don’t”
  1. Suzanne Moore says:

    I just found this post and feel I must make a comment. I was born and grew up in Dallas, TX. I owned horses there from 1977 to 1992 when I’d had all I could take of living in the shadow of Beltex, 30 miles away in Ft. Worth and Dallas Crown, 30 miles away in Kaufman.

    It was an unending nightmare of stolen horses and people being afraid to sell horses because the killers were notorious for misrepresenting themselves as legitimate buyers who wanted to give a person’s horse a good home. They often went so far as to bring a child along and claim the horse would be this child’s pony. Then, they would take the horse straight to slaughter. The rescues – if they could ransom the horses back from the killers – would contact the original owners if possible. Almost without exception, the original owners were horrified that their horse had ended up in the hands of a killer.

    The first friend of mine to have a horse stolen kept his horses on a piece of land at a very busy intersection in near North Dallas. There were apartments just across the street. His beautiful young – 6 years – Quarter Horse, Skip, disappeared overnight never to be seen again. I thought he would lose his mind.

    We thought we were safe though. boarding our horses at White Rock Stables, a venerable boarding barn in the White Rock are of near East Dallas. They had been there since the 40s and had never lost a horse.

    However, this was a new breed of horse thief – professional, efficient and fearless. One night, they visited the upper barn – with the Foreman’s house just a few feet away and the owner’s a few feet more. They took the horse next to mine. They took the one across the isle from mine. They took another down a few stalls. Why didn’t they take my horse? I’ll never know. It was a big barn and they couldn’t take all of them. Luck of the draw. I thought I would never stop crying.

    My beloved DJ was safe, but my friends weren’t so lucky, and they loved their horses too. A frantic search went on for weeks. That’s how I came to pay a visit to Dallas Crown. After all this time, I still do not care to describe what we saw there. Just the THOUGHT of my horse ending up like that still makes my heart pound in my chest. I couldn’t even imagine how my friends must feel – KNOWING their beloved horses died in such an unspeakably cruel manner. I’m starting to cry just typing this.

    Mr. and Mrs. Scia ~ You wouldn’t have your horses end up this way, right? Well, neither would any of us, but my friends didn’t have that choice. Because there was a slaughter plant relatively close, our horses were under constant threat of being stolen. Often, for many horse owners of this awful time, that threat turned to reality. How would YOU feel? But it’s okay because it wasn’t your horses. I love horses too much to wish you could experience what my friends went through. For the two of you, though, I fervently wish you could feel that helpless, horrified grief, that unbearable pain of knowing your beloved horse ended his/her life in pain and terror, being butchered while still conscious. In fact, I wish you had to WATCH
    That’s when I left my Dallas and moved with my husband to his native Indiana. Contrary to what Mr. and Mrs. Scia, just as many horses are going to that horrible fate as were going at that time. We always sent horses to slaughter in Mexico and Canada, it’s just all of them now. The US is a very large area – Texas itself is a large area – and horses always had to travel many miles under the most hideous conditions imaginable, and you two know that as well as I do. Dallas Crown and Beltex are closed now, but there are people just like you in Texas and across the nation working to reopen them.

    I feel sick.

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