Saturday, July 7, 2007

District court Upholds Illinois Law

(July 6, 2007) - The American Horse Defense Fund (AHDF) joins the Humane Society of the United States and other humane welfare organizations in applauding the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Kapala upholding a new Illinois law that prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

On May 24th, Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the law, which took effect immediately. On May 25th Cavel International, the nation’s only remaining horse slaughter facility, filed suit seeking to block enforcement of the law. Judge Kapala’s decision on July 5th upheld the Illinois 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 horsemeat for human consumption. The district court rejected each and every one of Cavel’s legal claims, for substantially the same reasons provided by the Fifth Circuit in the Texas case.

"This decision, and the legislation that it upheld, is yet another signal that the American people want their horses protected from slaughter,” said Shelley Sawhook, President of the American Horse Defense Fund. “After numerous states have either passed or are in the process of passing anti-horse slaughter legislation and two federal courts have now ruled, it is clear that horse slaughter must end. Now it’s up to Congress to finish the job and protect American horses from being exported to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico for human consumption overseas.”

In his ruling, Judge Kapala concluded that the Illinois law falls well-within the state’s authority to legislate for the protection of people and animals because “the Illinois General Assembly could have reasonably concluded that, based on our cultural history, our society views horses, along with dogs, cats, and some other creatures, as companion animals” and it is therefore “cruel and immoral to slaughter horses for human consumption.”


  • According to the USDA, 100,800 American horses were slaughtered in three foreign-owned slaughter houses in 2006. Another 30,000 were sent to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), is working to ban horse slaughter nationwide. The legislation would prohibit the export of horses for slaughter.
  • Cavel International employs 56 people - less than 0.001 percent of the population of DeKalb County. The facility's contributions to the tax base are also relatively insignificant. The facility contributes 0.12 percent of the county's commercial tax revenue and 0.02 percent of its property tax revenue.


  • July 5, 2007 – Judge Frederick J. Kapala of the federal district court in Rockford, Illinois upholds H.B. 1711.
  • May 28, 2007 – Texas legislature adjourns without taking up legislation that would legalize horse slaughter.
  • May 24, 2007 – Governor Rod Blagojevich signs H.B. 1711, banning horse slaughter in Illinois.
  • May 21, 2007 – The United States Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal by the horse slaughter industry in Texas. The industry sought review of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision upholding a 1949 Texas statute that bans horse slaughter.
  • May 16, 2007 – The Illinois Senate approves legislation to ban horse slaughter by a vote of 39-16.
  • April 26, 2007 - U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 249 to restore a decades-old ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses first enacted under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, by a vote of 277-137.
  • April 18, 2007 – The Illinois House of Representatives approves H.B. 1711 to ban the slaughter of American horses in Illinois for human consumption overseas, by nearly a two-to-one margin, a vote of 74-41.
  • March 29, 2007- A federal district court ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horses about to be slaughtered at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering operation in the United States. The order was stayed pending appeal, allowing Cavel to temporarily reopen.
  • March 20, 2007 – The HSUS files a notice of intent to sue Cavel International for dozens of violations of the Clean Water Act.
  • January 19, 2007 – A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously upholds a 1949 Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption in that state.
  • January 17, 2007 – Legislation to ban the slaughter (and export for slaughter) of American horses nationwide, S. 311 and H.R. 503, is introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Reps. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), John Spratt (D-S.C.) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).
  • September 7, 2006 – U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, by a vote of 263-146. The 109th Congress adjourns before the Senate can consider the bill.
The American Horse Defense Fund's (AHDF) mission is to facilitate the protection, conservation, and humane treatment of members of all Equine species. AHDF works to address inhumane treatment of horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and burros, both wild and domesticated through education, advocacy and litigation when necessary in the state, federal and international arenas. The AHDF has members in every state in the country. You can find the AHDF on the web at

The American Horse Defense Fund

1718 M St NW Unit 191

Washington, D.C. 20036

Justice for Horses

Are you interested in helping equine? Then join the AHDF, your membership dollars go toward supporting our many equine projects. Go to .

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