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Cavel slaughterhouse shut down - for now

Published: Friday, June 29, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT

ROCKFORD - A federal judge denied a motion Thursday that would allow DeKalb's Cavel International, the last remaining horse slaughterhouse in the country, to continue operating while the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether The Humane Society of the United States can intervene in the plant's suit against the state. J. Philip Calabrese, attorney for Cavel, argued that Judge Frederick Kapala had the authority to allow the plant to remain open during the appeal by the HSUS, since Kapala had granted the original temporary restraining order that allowed the plant to stay open during legal proceedings to decide the suit. Kapala ruled he did not have jurisdiction to grant the new motion that would have kept the plant open past Thursday, when the most recent temporary restraining order expired at midnight. Kapala also turned down the state's motion to continue the trial during the appeal. Belgium-based Cavel filed suit after a state law banning horse slaughter for human consumption was signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on May 24. The company claims the law blocks international commerce and unjustly protects one species of livestock over others. The vast majority of the horse meat processed by the plant is shipped to Europe and Asia, where it is sold in restaurants and supermarkets like beef. Activists in the United States have decried the process as brutal, and claim horses are companion animals like dogs and cats and should not be slaughtered. &#8220Our position is that the court has the power to maintain the status quo, that he should do so here for all the reasons for which he did originally,” Calabrese said. &#8220Courts always maintain inherent authority to issue orders in any proceeding.” Since June 1, Cavel has been operating under temporary restraining orders issued by Kapala. The orders prevented state and county officials from enforcing the law while the suit was in court. The HSUS filed on June 1 for intervention, which if granted would allow the group to function as a defendant in the proceedings - allowing it to call witnesses, enter evidence and cross-examine Cavel's witnesses. Kapala denied the request, and the HSUS appealed that decision June 19. &#8220We are the only group in this case advocating for the people living near the plant, whose property values and quality of life have been affected by the plant,” HSUS attorney Rebecca Judd said during the hearing. Attorney Tracy Silverman of the Animal Welfare Institute spoke in favor of allowing the HSUS to participate in the trial, saying the status quo can be maintained with the group's participation. Assistant Illinois Attorney General Rachel Fleischmann pointed out during the hearing that little case law exists regarding various rulings and motions made since the trial began. Calabrese agreed after the hearing that little precedent has been set to help decide this particular case. Kapala cited past cases in which the appellate court did not have the authority to grant a motion that would interfere with decisions already made by the circuit court. The appeal is still pending. No hearing dates have been set at this time. Benji Feldheim can be reached at bfeldheim@daily-chronicle.com.

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