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Judge's Ruling Closes Horse Slaughterhouse

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Mar 30, 2007 6:00PM

Chicagoist hasn't ever eaten horse meat. We don't really have a moral objection to it, any more than we have a moral objection to eating veal, lamb, chicken, frog legs, fois gras, and on and on; we just haven't eaten it.

But some people do have a moral objection, and those people are feeling pretty happy after the nation's only operational horse slaughterhouse, DeKalb County-based Cavel International Inc., was shut down on Thursday. A federal judge ruled that "it was illegal for horse slaughterhouses to pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cover costs of their health inspections," essentially because the USDA is also the organization that would shut them down if they didn't pass the inspections. While it wasn't really a moral victory against horse slaughterhouses, it was good enough to shut Cavel International down. The plant normally slaughters 1,000 horses a week, generating $30 million a year in foreign trade.

The horses at Cavel International, Inc. are killed with "a handheld 'penetrating captive bolt device' applied to the skull that opponents consider barbaric but regulators consider humane." This is the same device used to kill cattle. Once the horses have been slaughtered, they are shipped off to Europe where people don't seem to care one way or the other what they put in their mouth as long as it isn't genetically modified.

Even without this most recent ruling, the good old days may be over for Cavel, since a variety of legislation is on the table that would prohibit the slaughter of horses for consumption. A bipartisan bill passed the House of Representatives 263-146 last year and was reintroduced this winter. Here in Illinois, a ban passed a House committee by an 8-4 vote last week.

Image via Dee Dreslough.