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Judge lets Cavel stay open while he mulls issue

Published: Friday, June 15, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT

ROCKFORD - DeKalb horse slaughterhouse Cavel International was granted another reprieve Thursday when a federal judge extended a temporary restraining order that allows the plant to slaughter horses for two more weeks. U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala extended the order, initially issued June 1, to June 28. The order allows the plant to remain in operation while he considers Cavel's motion to nullify a new state law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption and banning the possession, import or export of the meat for human consumption. Cavel General Manager Jim Tucker estimated that less than 1 percent of the meat packaged by Cavel remains in the United States, where it is sold to zoos, while the rest is shipped to Europe, where it is eaten like beef. Attorneys for the state and for Cavel argued the merits of the law Thursday before about 25 spectators, including animal rights activists, who oppose the slaughter, and a group of Amish farmers who said they have sold old horses past their prime for slaughter. Cavel attorney J. Philip Calabrese said the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the federal government's regulation of foreign commerce, and because the state cannot codify one group's moral views into law. Assistant Illinois Attorney General Rachel Fleischmann said Cavel could show no evidence that the law interfered with foreign trade, and said the state has the right to regulate the treatment of animals. Calabrese also argued that the law specifically targets Cavel because it is the only horse slaughterhouse in the state and because the law does not ban all horse slaughter, just slaughter for human consumption. Fleischmann said the number of businesses affected should not be a factor in the case. Kapala said he needed more time to consider all the testimony and extended the restraining order until June 28, suggesting he would probably make his final ruling before then. &#8220We're happy he's taking it under consideration, and we're happy to be operating for another two weeks,” Tucker said. DeKalb-based anti-slaughter activist Angela Valianos said she was disappointed the extension was granted. She said the law should be presumed constitutional until the judge declares otherwise, and said Cavel's operations should have been halted until the ruling is made. &#8220The (temporary restraining order) was not necessary,” she said. &#8220Even if it wasn't granted, (Cavel) could have slaughtered for zoos, or they could go into slaughtering cows or pigs or whatever else (they) wanted to slaughter.” Kapala also denied a request by the Animal Welfare Institute to intervene in the case. Two weeks ago he denied The Humane Society of the United States the same motion. Dana Herra can be reached at dherra@daily-chronicle. com.

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