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Byrne claims “increasingly hostile” environment at racing board

Thursday, Nov 19, 2015

* Remember yesterday’s “Weirdest story of the day” post about how Illinois Racing Board Commissioner Kathy Byrne resigned after Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois killed off her proposal to prevent racehorse slaughters?

Well, Ms. Byrne sent this late yesterday afternoon…

Hi Rich-

It’s not really such a weird story. Since August I have been trying to get an amendment to the [Illinois Racing Board] rules to provide some protection and monitoring of racehorses so they are not shipped to Mexico or Canada for inhumane slaughter. According to the USDA, 80,000 horses are shipped off this way–alive– each year. They don’t monitor by breed, but it’s estimated that about 10% of these are racehorses.It’s a horrible death for the horses, but it’s also a black eye for the racing industry.

I worked very hard with all the tracks, the horsemen’s associations and the breeders to come up with language that was agreeable and served the purpose. Arlington Park has strong anti-slaughter policies, and was very helpful in proposing language for the amendment and I used that language.

For whatever reason, and I honestly don’t know why, the chairman and the general counsel of the IRB seemed determined not to let this amendment come up for a vote. The obstructions are too complicated to get into here, but after four months of pushing and groveling I finally got it on the agenda yesterday.

So, I was surprised and shocked when Arlington Park very publicly pulled its support, objecting to language that it had asked to have incorporated into the amendment. The specific sentence is one that requires owners and trainers to fill out an exit/destination slip when they take a horse from the track, and for the track to notify the IRB if they refuse. Arlington’s objection was seized upon by the chairman and counsel, who began arguing that there was no need for the rule at all. Rather than have the Board vote against protecting racehorses from slaughter, I withdrew it.

It has been a deteriorating and increasingly hostile situation for me since March when the new chairman was appointed. As of yesterday, I had six months left in my term and it was obvious to me that if the controlling forces on the Board were fighting me on something as benign as this amendment, anything else I might offer in the next six months would also be DOA. So rather than spending six months doing nothing, I resigned.

I hope this helps explain what happened yesterday. I’m sad to go, but it’s better this way.

Kathy Byrne


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:33 am:

    Bo Derek wheels up in 5,4,3,2,1…

  2. - Amalia - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:34 am:

    Have not followed the politics of this commission, but her cause is a good one. hoping such sentiments will still be expressed on the Commission.

  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:39 am:

    Seems pretty simple to me.

    The governor wanted her gone.

    Now, he can appoint her replacement, right?

  4. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:52 am:

    Maybe it’s as simple as YDD says. The governor should take care that this doesn’t turn into his Brady puppy-gas-chamber issue.

    Byrnes don’t go quietly.

    It brings to mind an Illinois scandal from back in the late 40s.

    The notorious Silas Jayne and his crew used to go out west, round up feral horses, ship them back by rail, then drive them through the streets of Woodstock, ostensibly on the way to their horse farms.

    Turned out Jayne and The Outfit had bribed the state meat inspector, and they were slaughtering the horses and selling them to supermarkets as ground beef.

  5. - Honeybear - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:55 am:

    Mrs. Byrne,

    Thank you for trying. I sincerely hope you don’t feel failure. Striving for what is right should never be considered failure. I instictively looked over at a Dicken’s quote on my wall. I offer it to you.

    “We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot!”

    Don’t give up! Thank you for bringing light on this issue.

  6. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:56 am:

    Its time to serve Mr. Duchossois a Trigger burger.

  7. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 8:58 am:

    You know how Springfielders eat horseshoes - now is the time to really put some meat into those things which justifies the name.

  8. - Dilemma - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:00 am:

    What is supposed to happen to retired racehorses? What would happen if this same policy was applied to milk cows when their milking days were over? How about chickens? I honestly don’t understand the issue, and would appreciate some context.

  9. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:03 am:

    I would suggest that Ms. Byrne go very public with what most of the Commission was on board to do, and how it was basically “hijacked” by two people. I wasn’t aware of the Shipshewana connection until I listened to the post yesterday by The Horseman’s Voice. What she and several other members of the Commission were trying to do is very laudable.

  10. - Horse whisperer - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:04 am:

    You are exactly right! Horse slaughter is horrible. Any government horseracing agency that can’t pass a rule helping to curb horse slaughter shows unparalleled disfunction.

  11. - Bird Dog - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:04 am:

    Is eating horsemeat wrong? The supermarkets have a lot of fresh pork, beef and poultry that got killed for you - go vegetarian or get over it.

  12. - Motambe - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:09 am:

    I suspect there is more back story here. She includes the language that Arlington wanted, then Dickie pulls the rug out from under her at the meeting? This was a public payback for some other issue.

  13. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:11 am:

    One of the biggest problems, if you want to argue the meat safety aspect, is drug residues in the meat. Withdrawals can be at minimum six months. Is this truly being followed in the slaughter industries in Mexico and Canada??? How is the traceability done???

  14. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:13 am:

  15. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:15 am:

    Bird Dog has a good point. They aren’t unicorns.

  16. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:17 am:

  17. - Roamin' Numeral - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:21 am:

    There is a difference between livestock that was raised to be slaughtered and eaten versus a racehorse that has had a wide variety of drugs injected into it that we don’t want in our food supply.

  18. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:24 am:


    I don’t think it really ends up in our food supply for cultural reasons.

    IIRC from the debate when the issue was before the ILGA back in the day, most of the meat ended up exported to Belgium and France.

    It’s an interesting, and to me arbitrary, place to draw the line.

  19. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:30 am:

    Liz- It has global implications. Read the Latitude News post by me.

  20. - Roamin' Numeral - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:31 am:

    ==most of the meat ended up exported to Belgium and France.==

    Right. When I say “our” food supply, I mean “humans,” not Americans. If a human in France or Belgium eats the meat, it’s probably not good for them.

  21. - Kenaugie - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:31 am:

    Bird Dog.

    You’re right on one side but I don’t think you understand the actual process of horse slaughter that takes place in Mexico and Canada. For fear of ruining everyone’s breakfast, I won’t post the details but they are easy to find. No livestock intended for food should be made to go through what happens at these horse slaughterhouses. It is a sad day for the Illinois Racing Board.

  22. - Stones - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:37 am:

    I appreciate her letter and it seems sincere to me. She probably doesn’t need the gig and if it’s going to be miserable for her you pick up and move on. I don’t blame her at all.

  23. - Big Joe - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:39 am:

    It has gotta be “Madigan” again./s

  24. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:40 am:

  25. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:47 am:


    I’m with you and I see your point. I just think what Belgians eat is outside the purview of the Illinois Racing Board.

  26. - bc - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:54 am:

    American race horses are shot up with tons of PED’s and other drugs — which should be the focus of the racing board. its awful, and doesn’t happen anywhere else in the horse racing world outside of the U.S. I’m not sure of the health implications of that, but I wouldn’t want my dog eating that meat.

  27. - Anon221 - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:56 am:

    Liz- this issue is more than just what in on a Belgian’s dinner plate. Just a little “googling” would tell you so. Check out all the other race courses in the US that already have this slaughter notification information as a requirement on their forms. Illinois is not up to speed here.

  28. - walker - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 9:57 am:

    It could be as simple as Arlington Park already having this policy, and resisting the racing board sticking their big foot into another part of their business. That sounds like big D to me.

  29. - Ghost - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 10:11 am:

    we still have horse racing in Illinois? we need more casinos then…..

  30. - LizPhairTax - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 10:19 am:


    Got you. I agree with you that getting Illinois in line with other US states is something the racing board should do. Humane outcomes for the animals should be a desired outcome.

    If Belgians or whomever want to eat doped up horse meat that’s their deal.

  31. - Hedley Lamarr - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 10:45 am:

    Another reason to go vegan.

  32. - SuperStars - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 11:07 am:

    Go look at Illinois Register - nothing is getting passed. The Rauner administration is blocking rules from publication unless required by law or related to the turnaround agenda.

  33. - Anonin' - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 11:56 am:

    KB made a lot of solid contributions to racing during her time at IRB…guessin’ this will be another step toward the end of live racin’ in IL…that shakes it up.

  34. - Anon - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    I thought most horse meat used in the USA wound up in canned dog food.

  35. - Northsider - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 12:10 pm:

    “Go look at Illinois Register - nothing is getting passed. The Rauner administration is blocking rules from publication unless required by law or related to the turnaround agenda.”

    Maybe because all proposed rules by all agencies must receive approval from the governor’s office before the agency can initiate action?

  36. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 12:40 pm:

    The Racing Board has the battlefield for the war between Arlington and the rest of the racing industry for several years now. Mr D wins every time: he has veto power over names of any new appointees, and complete control of who can/can’t be Chairman. Let’s hear someone deny it.

  37. - Demoralized - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 1:05 pm:

    ==unless required by law==

    There has to be a statutory basis for all rules.

    ==Maybe because all proposed rules by all agencies must receive approval from the governor’s office==

    That’s been true to some extent or another under all Governors.

  38. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 1:11 pm:

    How does the governor’s office feel about this? Is the role of the IRB to be an Arlington lapdog or a racing watchdog?

  39. - Ill. Pol. - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 1:24 pm:

    I would think animal right’s groups will be very upset by this situation. At what point does PETA start dumping horse manure on the lawn of Chairman Brincat?

  40. - Southside Markie - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 1:48 pm:

    Still wish she cared as much about the backstretch workers she put out of homes and jobs at Balmoral, etc. as she does about horses. She didn’t mind doing Arlington’s bidding when it came to closing those tracks.

  41. - Business as Usual is Over - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 3:03 pm:

    “How does the governor’s office feel about this? Is the role of the IRB to be an Arlington lapdog or a racing watchdog?” — Precinct Captain

    Duchossois was a top contributor to Rauner inaugural and transition.

    When Rauner took office he replaced four commissioners. One replacement is the former mayor of Arlington Heights. One is a lawyer formerly retained by Arlington Park to argue in front of the IRB in favor of Arlington Park.

  42. - Horse whisperer - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 3:49 pm:

    Who is the Commissioner that worked for Arlington that is now on the Board? I’m not saying you’re wrong but how is that possible?

  43. - Northsider - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 4:22 pm:

    “Who is the Commissioner that worked for Arlington that is now on the Board?”
    Comm. Kalita. She represented Arlington until at least late 2013. Appointed right after Rauner’s inauguration.
    Strange days indeed.

  44. - Business as Usual is Over - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 4:40 pm:

    Commissioner Kalita previously did legal consulting for Arlington Park.

  45. - Tom Dubrick - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 5:41 pm:

    I would like to thank Ms. Byrne, a nice lady, committed, for her contribution to IRB and dialog. She did much to support racing, including in Southlands. She should not be faulted for the Maywood/Balmoral Fiasco, or legal events. Tpd

  46. - Horse whisperer - Thursday, Nov 19, 15 @ 6:12 pm:

    How is it possible that former legal representatives of racetracks and mayors of cities that racetracks are in get appointed to that board? Who vets these appointments? What about the chairman? Does he have a connection to Arlington also?

  47. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 20, 15 @ 2:23 am:

    disband the irb. notify pete and picket Arlington and its trackside locations

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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