Bill could stop Cavel inspections

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an agriculture spending bill late Thursday that includes an amendment to stop government inspections of horses slaughtered for human consumption. The amendment is similar to one passed two years ago that remains in a federal appeals court, which prohibited federal funding of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors at horse-slaughtering plants. In response to that action, the USDA created a new regulation that allows slaughter plants to pay the inspectors a per-horse fee. The amendment to the 2008 spending bill also prohibits funding of that regulation, said Nancy Perry, vice president of government affairs for The Humane Society of the United States. Belgium-based Cavel International in DeKalb is the last horse slaughterhouse still operating in the United States. Most of the meat processed at the plant is shipped to Asia and western Europe, where it is eaten like beef. Cavel has appealed a federal court decision to uphold an Illinois law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption. In a July 18 ruling, an appellate court in Rockford granted Cavel the right to continue operations pending the outcome of the appeal. Cavel started operating again a few days later; it had been shut down since June 28. A federal appeals court in Chicago will hear testimony Aug. 16 in Cavel's suit against Illinois' state ban, Cavel attorney J. Philip Calabrese said. Calabrese had not heard of the House vote Friday morning and did not anticipate an impact from the legislation on Cavel's operations. The measure must still be approved by the Senate, and if it becomes law, it would not be effective until the next fiscal year begins in October. &#8220There is presently litigation in Washington involving (the inspection) issue that's been going on for years,” Calabrese said. &#8220It's not anything new.” But Perry argued the new amendment sends an even stronger message that Congress considers horse slaughter unacceptable. &#8220The (USDA) should not be able to get around this,” she said. &#8220It defunds any implementation of this regulation that allowed the USDA to evade Congress' will in 2005. ...This should really send shivers up the spines of those who continue the slaughter of American horses.” Dana Herra can be reached at dherra@daily-chronicle.com.