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Last U.S. horse-slaughter plant closes


Chicago - The last remaining U.S. horse-slaughter for human consumption plant closed after a judge threw out a constitutionality argument against a state law banning the practice.

CHICAGO — The last remaining U.S. horse-slaughter for human consumption plant closed after a judge threw out a constitutionality argument against a state law banning the practice.

Cavel International Inc.'s challenge to the newly enacted Illinois law outlawing the slaughter, possession, import and export of horses for human consumption was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Kapala early in July.

The DeKalb, Ill., plant had been ordered closed the previous week, when Kapala denied Cavel's request to remain open for business during the litigation.

Signed into law in late May by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the slaughter ban faced immediate challenge from Cavel in federal court. The judge granted a temporary order preventing officials from enforcing the law and allowing the plant to remain open. After extending the order once, Kapala refused to grant a second extension, forcing Cavel to close at the end of June.

The court deemed without merit eight constitutional challenges by Cavel, including alleged violations of interstate and federal commerce clauses. The plant will remain closed unless an appeal being considered is successful, says Cavel attorney Phil Calabrese.

During a 20-year operation, Cavel slaughtered about 1,000 horses a week. While a portion of the plant's meat was sold to U.S. zoos, most was sent overseas for human consumption.

Earlier this year, a federal court ruled horse slaughter for human consumption illegal in Texas, home of the only two other slaughter plants nationwide. The decision overturned a lower court's 2006 ruling on Texas Agriculture Code Chapter 149, which prohibits horse slaughter for the purpose of selling meat for human consumption.

Both Texas plants — Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth and Dallas Crown Inc. in Kaufman — had shipped horse meat abroad for human consumption since the mid-1970s, according to court records.

Critics of the plant closings argue its ban will flood horse-rescue facilities by adding almost 100,000 displaced horses into the system each year.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) officials say they're attempting to monitor how the plants' closings will affect unwanted-horse populations.

Horse slaughter also is garnering national legislative attention with the January re-introduction of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On the Senate side, the Horse Protection Act, prohibiting the movement, purchase or sale of horses for human consumption, remains under review.

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