It's Final: Last U.S. Horse Slaughter Plant Must Close

It's Final: Last U.S. Horse Slaughter Plant Must Close

September 21, 2007

Today, The Humane Society of the United States hailed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upholding the State of Illinois' decision to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Illinois is home to the last remaining horse slaughter plant in the country, and the ruling effectively ends all slaughter of horses for food in the United States.

"Today's court decision marks the end of the line for the foreign-owned horse slaughter industry in the United States," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Now it's up to Congress to finish the job and protect American horses from being exported to foreign abattoirs in Canada and Mexico for human consumption overseas."

In a unanimous ruling, the Court rejected each and every one of Cavel's legal claims and reiterated that "States have a legitimate interest in prolonging the lives of animals" and promoting the "humane treatment of our fellow

"This ruling should make the people of Illinois proud to stop the last remaining horse slaughterhouse in the country," said Illinois State Representative Bob Molaro, one of the key sponsors of the bill. "This was a hard won fight for the legislature, but the fight is not over. I applaud U.S. Rep. Janice Schakowsky for her federal leadership on this issue, and hope that this decision will spur the passage of federal legislation to prevent American horses from being shipped to Mexico or Canada for butchering."

Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the law, which took effect immediately, on May 24. Shortly thereafter, Cavel International, the nation's only remaining horse slaughter facility, filed suit seeking to block enforcement of the law. Earlier this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a similar effort by the horse slaughter industry to overturn Texas' law banning the possession of horse meat for human consumption. In July, the federal district court in Rockford, Illinois upheld the Illinois state law, for substantially the same reasons provided by the Fifth Circuit in the Texas case, and Cavel appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit.

"This was the final chapter in our successful efforts to close down the last remaining horse slaughterhouse in the United States," said Illinois State Senator John Cullerton, another key sponsor of the law. "We have finally stopped the slaughter of these majestic creatures."

The HSUS filed briefing as a friend of the court in the case, and was represented by Schiff Hardin LLP, Belgrade & O'Donnell, P.C. and lawyers with The HSUS' animal protection litigation section. The state law was defended before the court of appeals by Illinois Solicitor Gary Feinerman, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Assistant Attorney General Mary Welsh.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization—backed by 10 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—On the web at humanesociety.org

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra