Supreme Court refuses to hear horse slaughter appeal

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Supreme Court Monday refused to hear an appeal by the last US horse abattoir against its forced closure, despite claims that American horse meat is greatly valued in Europe.

Until last year, there were three horse abattoirs in the United States — two in Texas and one in Illinois. But they closed after both states, under pressure from animal rights groups, passed laws banning killing horses for human consumption.

The Illinois slaughterhouse, run by Cavel International, an affiliate of a Belgian company, had employed about 60 people and killed between 40,000 and 60,000 horses each year, with annual revenues of 20 million dollars.

Cavel had fought the ban, arguing that since almost all of its meat was exported to Europe and Japan, the Illinois law encroached on federal regulations on international commerce.

But an appeals court rejected Cavel’s argument in September, saying the company had failed to show that stopping its operations risked affecting the global horse meat market.

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case any further appeal.

Cavel’s appeal had received backing from Belgium, which told the court, “American horse meat is considered by consumers in Belgium and elsewhere in the EU to be of the highest quality and distinguishable from horse meat produced from other nations.”


UPDATE June 18, 2008

Milt Toby, JD, writing for explains:

The Supreme Court of the United States on June 16 denied certiorari in Cavel International, Inc. v. Madigan (No. 07-962), leaving in place a decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a ban on slaughter of horses for human consumption in Illinois. In May 2007, the Illinois Horse Meat Act was amended to make it illegal for anyone in the state to slaughter horses for human consumption or to import or export horse meat destined for human consumption. Cavel International, which operated a horse slaughter facility in DeKalb, Ill., challenged the new law but lost in federal district court and in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cavel next sought review by the Supreme Court through a request called a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari. Cavel argued that the Illinois law violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, which prohibits individual states from enacting laws that burden interstate or foreign commerce, and that there was no legitimate justification for the slaughter ban.

Supreme Court review of a lower court decision is far from automatic, and a writ of certiorari is seldom granted. On June 16, for example, when the Court announced that Cavel’s request for review had been denied, only three petitions were granted. A total of 109 petitions–97%–were denied that day.

Denial of certiorari means that the lower court decision becomes the controlling legal authority. It does not mean that the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court’s ruling on horse slaughter, however, nor does it necessarily prohibit horse slaughter for human consumption in other states or prevent legal challenges to laws similar to the one in Illinois. The Supreme Court previously declined to review a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a ban on horse slaughter for human consumption in Texas.

[TH Comment: This is good news for our state to state effort to ban horse slaughter, as we have been told repeatedly by elected officials in many states they wanted to see the outcome of this before proceeding.

Insofar as Belgiums loving to eat our horses’ meat, I wonder how delighted they would be to know how contaminated by drugs it is.]

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