Illinois Horse Slaughter Plant to Reopen

A federal judge ruled Friday that Illinois' only horse slaughter plant could temporarily resume operations while challenging a state law that forced it to close last week.

Belgian-owned Cavel International Inc. filed a lawsuit May 25 claiming a new law banning the slaughter of horses intended for human consumption is unconstitutional.

Cavel shipped horsemeat to Europe and was the only such facility still operating in the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala granted the temporary restraining order that prevents state and DeKalb County officials from enforcing the ban while the suit is considered.

The DeKalb plant operated legally for 20 years. It closed twice this year over the horsemeat issue, first temporarily in March after a federal court said plant inspections were being improperly funded by the Agriculture Department, and then again last week after Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law banning the import, export, possession, and slaughter of horses intended for human consumption.

The company claims the state has no constitutional authority to ban the slaughter of a particular species because some people object on moral grounds. The suit also says the law would restrain interstate and international commerce and infringe on federal authority over slaughterhouses.

Friday's ruling noted that the company has laid off 54 of its 63 workers and lost more than $350,000 in revenue since the law went into effect.

The restraining order expires after June 14. Hearings in the case are scheduled for June 12 and 14.

Until March, the Agriculture Department had been offering horse slaughter plant inspections for a fee after federal lawmakers stripped money for horse inspectors' salaries and expenses from the 2006 agriculture spending bill in an effort to end horse slaughter.

But Cavel resumed operations after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided May 1 to grant the slaughterhouse's emergency request for a stay as it considers an appeal of the ruling to end the fee-for-service inspections.

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The Associated Press

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