June 28, 2007 — The Illinois Legislature passed a ban on horse slaughter this spring, but the issue still isn’t settled in the state.
On May 24, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill prohibiting the import or export of horsemeat for human consumption in Illinois. But the next day the owners of Cavel International filed suit challenging the law on the grounds that it violates the U.S. constitution’s commerce provisions. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order permitting Cavel’s Dekalb, Ill., plant to continue processing horsemeat until the case is heard. At presstime, a hearing was scheduled for mid-June.
“It’s a shame, [the plant representatives talk] about how much they care about the horse, yet they’re dragging their feet with legal shenanigans while horses are killed,” says Chris Heyde, deputy legislative director for Society for Animal Protective Legislation.
Cavel’s general manager James Tucker counters that false assertions were made to promote the slaughter ban. “These people are constantly saying that what we’re doing is inhumane and the horses suffer and it’s just not true,” he says. “And when you talk to people in the horse industry, you realize that the issue of horse slaughter is a deeper subject with different opinions.”
Cavel International processes more than 26,000 horses a year at the Illinois plant, selling the meat in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy.
There also are two horse slaughter plants in Texas–Beltex of Fort Worth and Dallas Crown of Kaufman. After a court decision in January upheld a 1949 Texas state law prohibiting the sale of horse meat for human consumption, the two Texas facilities stopped processing horses, except in cases where the meat is intended to feed zoo animals.
This article will appear in the August 2007 issue of EQUUS magazine.