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Horse slaughterhouse in Illinois to stay closed

By IL Public Radio

DeKalb, Ill. – Attorneys for a horse slaughterhouse in northern Illinois say they'll probably continue their legal fight.

The plant was the last in the country that slaughtered horses for human consumption, until a law was signed this spring to ban that practice.

Judge Frederick Kapala ruled that the state does have the power to regulate international commerce - which Cavel appealed in court.

"The whole suggestion that Cavel not being able to operate was going to cause some type of international incident - we didn't find it credible and the district court didn't either," said Jonathan Lovvorn, with the Humane Society's legal team .

"We are disappointed in the ruling and respectfully disagree with it," Cavel attorney Phil Calabrese said Thursday evening. He said he had to talk with Cavel about Kapala's ruling and a possible appeal, which he called likely.

The plant about 60 miles west of Chicago had sold a portion of its meat to U.S. zoos, but primarily shipped it to be eaten by diners overseas.

In late May, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law banning the import, export, possession and slaughter of horses intended for human consumption.

The company immediately challenged the state law in federal court and Kapala granted a temporary order that prevented officials from enforcing the ban. He extended the order once, but refused a second extension, forcing the plant to close at midnight last Friday.

"The people of Illinois have made a decision that the benefits of shutting this factory outweigh the impacts," added Lovvorn, with the Humane Society, which sought "friend of the court" status in the case. "We're obviously pleased to see that enforced."

Cavel mounted eight constitutional challenges to the state law, including the claim that it violated interstate and foreign commerce clauses because the meat is shipped overseas. It also claimed the plant's closure would cost 55 jobs.

In his decision Thursday, Kapala wrote that all Cavel's challenges were without merit.

"We're pleased that the court found the law to be constitutional," said Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for Illinois State Attorney General's office.

The Cavel plant operated in DeKalb for about 20 years and slaughtered about 1,000 horses a week, according to plant officials.

Supporters say without horse slaughterhouses, older or otherwise marginalized horses would be neglected or abandoned because some owners won't pay the cost to have them euthanized.

Critics say the slaughterhouse process is inhumane. Some also argue the United States has no tradition of raising horses for meat and shouldn't be doing so to satisfy foreign consumers.

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