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Judge says horse slaughtering facility in Illinois can stay open

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Cavel International, in DeKalb.

By AP/KWMU

Chicago, Ill. – A federal judge on Thursday extended an order allowing the nation's last operating horse slaughterhouse to remain in business while it challenges a state law that would force it to close.

Cavel International, located in DeKalb, slaughters horses for human consumption by overseas diners, except for a portion sold to U.S. zoos. Late last month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law banning the import, export, possession and slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Soon after, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala granted a temporary restraining order preventing state and DeKalb County officials from enforcing the ban while he considered a Cavel lawsuit claiming the Illinois law is unconstitutional.

That order was due to expire at midnight Thursday. But after a hearing, Kapala extended the order allowing the plant to stay open for 10 more business days, according to the judge's chambers and attorneys for several animal-rights groups granted "friend of the court status" in the case.

Cavel lawyers say the law violates the interstate and foreign commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution. They argue its closure would deprive about 55 people of jobs.

Groups that have lobbied for bans on horse slaughterhouses say the process is inhumane. They also argue the nation has no tradition of raising horses to be killed for meat and shouldn't be doing so to satisfy foreign consumers.

Two other U.S. plants, both in Texas, closed this year. A federal appeals court upheld a Texas law banning horse slaughter for the sale of meat for food, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

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