December 7, 2007 -- Cavel International--the last U.S. slaughter plant to process horse meat for human consumption--closed its doors September 21 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a state law prohibiting horse slaughter.
The law passed last spring, but the owners of the DeKalb, Ill., facility filed a preliminary injunction with the U.S. District Court. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, permitting the plant to continue processing horse meat until the case was heard.
In June, the U.S. District Court upheld the state law, and then in September, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled unanimously to uphold the previous court decision, effectively shutting the plant. Cavel's owners have 90 days (January 18, 2008) to decide whether to petition the Supreme Court to hear their case.
Chris Heyde, deputy legislative director for the Animal Welfare Institute, calls the closure a step in the right direction. According to court documents, Cavel processed 40,000 to 60,000 horses a year, selling the meat in Belgium, France and Japan.
But, he adds, "We're not even close to being finished yet. Our goal has always been to stop slaughter and prevent the transport of horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter."
Federal legislation introduced in early 2007 would prohibit the practice, if passed. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 503) has been referred to a house subcommittee.
This article originally appeard in the December 2007 issue of EQUUS magazine.