Horse Slaughter: U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Illinois Ban

Cavel International of DeKalb, Ill., the nation's last active horse slaughter plant, will again be shuttered. A three-judge panel from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today in support of a lower court's earlier decision on the constitutionality of a state law banning the practice.

This is the latest move in what has been a tumultuous year for the horse slaughter industry.

In late May, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a state law banning the import, export, and possession of horsemeat intended for human consumption. However, Cavel filed suit to challenge the law. (For more on this see

Illinois Northern District Court Judge Frederick J. Kapala allowed the plant to continue operating while he considered the challenge, but dismissed the case on July 5. Cavel filed an appeal to this decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed Cavel to resume operations while it considered the case.

"Of course Illinois could do much more for horses than it does--could establish old-age pastures for them, so that they would never be killed (except by a stray cougar), or provide them with free veterinary care," wrote Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner in the court's 15-page opinion. "But it is permitted to balance its interest in horses' welfare against the other interests of its (human) population; and it is also permitted to take one step at a time on a road toward the humane treatment of our fellow animals."

Two Texas-based slaughter plants were closed earlier this year when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 1949 state law banning the practice there.

According to a statement released by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Cavel has two remaining options to challenge the ruling. It can request an en banc review, in which all judges on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals would reconsider the decision rendered by the three-judge panel, or it can appeal directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Texas plants were denied their earlier request for a hearing with the Supreme Court.

"AWI calls on Cavel to stop stonewalling the inevitable by prolonging this cruelty via the courts," said AWI Deputy Legislative Director Chris Heyde. "Each day it drags out this process, hundreds of horses are caught in the middle, paying the ultimate price as a result."

A representative for Cavel declined to comment on the decision.

The full text of the court's opinion can be downloaded as a PDF at:  

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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