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Judge upholds ban on horse slaughter

Published: Friday, July 6, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT

A federal judge upheld Illinois’ new ban on horse slaughter Thursday, ruling against the Belgian company that has operated a horse slaughterhouse in DeKalb since 1987. U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala ruled that Cavel International failed to prove the law is unconstitutional or violates established federal laws, arguments Cavel made in a May 25 suit asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional and prevent it from being enforced. “It is constitutional. The law is valid and enforceable,” DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney John Farrell said. “This is what we were hoping he would enter last week instead of the judgment he did enter, which suspended the case pending the outcome of the Humane Society’s appeal.” On June 25, Kapala ruled he had no jurisdiction to continue with the case until a federal appeals court ruled on a request by The Humane Society of the United States to intervene as a defendant. The appeals court reversed that ruling Tuesday and ordered Kapala to enter final judgment on the merits of the case. Cavel has been closed since June 28, when a temporary restraining order allowing it to operate during the court hearings expired. HSUS spokesman Jon Lovvorn said his organization would review the ruling and see if Cavel appeals before deciding whether to drop its appeal. “We don’t know what comes next in the appellate court,” he said. Lovvorn said the ruling, combined with a Texas ruling earlier this year that shuttered two horse slaughterhouses in that state, should be recognized as a sign that Americans reject horse slaughter. “This is the second time the federal courts have come to this kind of a decision,” he said. “It seems like the writing is on the wall that horse slaughter will have to end.” With the closing of the Texas plants earlier this year, Cavel was the only operating horse slaughterhouse in the country. Horse meat is not sold for human consumption in the United States, but Cavel ships the meat overseas, mostly to western Europe, where it is eaten as an alternative to beef. The state law signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on May 24 outlaws the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the possession, import or export of horse meat for human consumption. Kapala disagreed with Cavel’s contention that the law exceeds Illinois’ police powers, saying the state has a legitimate interest in the humane treatment of animals and in the morality of its citizens. “The General Assembly could have rationally concluded that because a horse is more agile and has a keener sense of wariness than more docile animals such as cattle, they are more difficult to kill in an orderly and methodical way in a slaughterhouse, and therefore, it is inhumane to slaughter a horse before its useful life as a companion, recreational or draft animal has come to an end,” Kapala wrote. “While it is true that it is still lawful to slaughter healthy, useful horses for any reason other than for human consumption, that does not render the law incapable of rationally serving its purpose of reducing the practice.” Kapala went on to say the Legislature could have rationally concluded horses are companion animals like dogs, not ordinary livestock raised for food. “Obviously, we are studying the ruling and are disappointed in it,” Cavel attorney J. Philip Calabrese said. Calabrese said Cavel has not yet decided whether it will file an appeal, but that the decision is expected to be made Friday. Updates will be posted on www.daily-chronicle.com as they become available. Dana Herra can be reached at dherra@daily-chronicle.com.

Title: Cavel Suit
Date: Jul. 6th, 2007
The Cavel suit is getting pretty complex and hard to follow, since at this point it's been more than a month of court motions and counter-motions. We have made it a little easier with the creation of this timeline.

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