Illinois horse slaughter ban upheld

The biggest news this week, of course, is that Cavel must shut down.

Joseph Sjostrom, staff reporter for the Chicago Tribune filed this report on Sept. 23, 2007:

A federal appellate court panel on Friday upheld the constitutionality of an Illinois law that prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

The ruling effectively shuts down a DeKalb horse-slaughtering plant, the last facility of its kind in the country. Cavel International Inc., a Belgium-based company that operates the plant, kills horses and ships meat overseas for human consumption.

Plant officials declined to comment on Friday’s ruling. Cavel’s attorney, J. Philip Calabrese, said he and the company are evaluating whether to further appeal the matter.

Cavel had asked the court to invalidate a statute signed into law last May that prohibited the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the possession, import or export of horse meat for human consumption. Cavel also argued the state law discriminates against foreign commerce.The appellate panel expressed some reluctance in reaching its decision, saying in its written opinion that “… we are not entirely happy about having to uphold the Illinois statute.” But it concluded that the law does not improperly discriminate and does not significantly interfere with interstate or foreign commerce.

The appellate opinion noted that the Illinois law does not prohibit the slaughter of horses for animal food. To emphasize the point, the court included a news photograph of a lion in a zoo eating a birthday treat consisting of 10 pounds of horse meat, whipped cream and a carrot. But the panel found that it was within the state’s authority to pass the law.

“States have a legitimate interest in prolonging the lives of animals that their population happens to like,” said the opinion written by Judge Richard Posner. Judges Ilana Rovner and Frank Easterbrook sided with him in the decision.

The plant has closed and reopened a number of times since May in response to various court orders but had been operating earlier this week. However, DeKalb County State’s Atty. Ron Matekaitis said he believed the plant was not slaughtering horses Friday.

“It would appear that, pending other legal action, the last horse has been slaughtered” at the plant, he said.

With increased export of horses to Mexico and particularly Canada, where more slaughterhouses have started to butcher horses for their meat, the passing of pending legislation banning not only the slaughter of horses but their export for slaughter, is urgently required to protect America’s horses from the specter of a brutal and terrifying death in abbatoirs across this nation’s borders, as well as keep horse slaughter plants from opening in other states.

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