Cavel Slaughter Plant Restraining Order: Judge Grants 10 Day Extension

A federal judge extended a temporary order allowing an Illinois horse slaughterhouse to remain in operation while it challenges a state law that would force it to close.

Cavel International Inc.'s site in DeKalb, Ill., is the last remaining slaughterhouse in the United States where horses are killed for human consumption. Except for a portion sold to U.S. zoos, the horse meat from the plant is shipped to be eaten by diners overseas.

In late May, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed a law banning the import, export, possession and slaughter of horses intended for human consumption.

Soon after, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala granted a temporary restraining order preventing state and DeKalb County officials from enforcing the ban while he considered a lawsuit filed by Belgian-owned Cavel International claiming the Illinois law is unconstitutional.

That order was due to expire at midnight Thursday.

But following a three-hour hearing, Kapala extended the order allowing the plant to stay open for 10 more business days, according to the judge's chambers and attorneys for several animal-rights groups granted "friend of the court status" in the case.

Rebecca Judd, an attorney for The Humane Society of the United States who attended the hearing, said the judge's order runs through June 28, unless he makes a ruling in the case before then.

Cavel lawyers say the Illinois law violates the interstate and foreign commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution. They argue its closure would deprive about 55 people of jobs.

Two other U.S. plants, both in Texas, closed earlier this year. A federal appeals court upheld a Texas law banning horse slaughter for the sale of meat for food, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

The Cavel plant has been in operation in DeKalb for about 20 years and slaughters about 1,000 horses a week, according to plant officials.

The phone at Cavel's DeKalb offices rang unanswered Thursday night. Cavel's general manager, James Tucker, did not immediately return a message for comment left on his cell phone.

Tracy Silverman is an attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute and attended the hearing. She said she was disappointed by the extension of the order because it allows Cavel to continue slaughtering horses and "that is against the will of the people of Illinois, based on the legislation that was recently passed."

Jonathan Lovvorn, the humane society's vice president for animal protection litigation, also said his group was disappointed by the judge's decision.

"We want to see the will of the people of Illinois executed, and that's what this is about," he said.

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The Associated Press

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