Judge says horse slaughter violates National Environmental Policy Act
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2007:
WASHINGTON D.C.–U.S. District Court Judge Colleen
Kollar-Kotelly on March 28, 2007 ruled in Washington D.C. that the
USDA violated the National Environment-al Policy Act by allowing
horse slaughterhouses to continue killing horses for human
consumption, after Congress in 2005 cut off funding for mandatory
The USDA responded to the Congressional budget cut by
allowing the three horse slaughterhouses left in the U.S. to fund
their own inspections. Judge Kollar-Kotelly held that this action
should have been subject to an environmental impact review.
Her verdict was a triumph for the Society for Animal
Protective Legislation, an arm of the Animal Welfare Institute, and
for the Humane Society of the U.S., who sued seeking to reverse the
USDA circumvention of the intent of Congress in February 2006.
“Because of continuing resolutions approved by Congress to
fund the government, the ruling is effective immediately,” rejoiced
AWI president Cathy Liss.
“The funding limitation on inspections for horse slaughter
contained in the 2006 Appropriations Act carry over through September
30, 2007,” elaborated an HSUS media release.
In theory, horse slaughtering plants could kill horses only
for animal consumption through September, a much less lucrative
trade, and hope to resume business as usual on October 1.
“Because the Congressional act cutting funding for horse
slaughter expires in September,” HSUS explained, horse slaughter
opponents are “calling on Congress to pass the American Horse
Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503 and S. 311) to settle the matter
Even if the USDA is again funded to inspect horse
slaughterhouses, however, the Kollar-Kotelly ruling may offer an
opening for further legal opposition.
“The District Court barred the USDA from inspecting horses
for human consumption,” the HSUS release continued, “because the
USDA failed to conduct any review of the adverse impacts of horse
slaughter on the surrounding communities.”
The last three horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. are Dallas
Crown of Kaufman, Texas; Beltex, of Fort Worth, Texas; and Cavel
International, of DeKalb, Illinois. All three have long been
controversial within their communities. Dallas Crown, closed for
“restructuring” on March 23, 2007, had operated since March 2006
in defiance of an order to close from the Kaufman Board of
Adjustments, for being an alleged public nuisance and health and
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on March 6,
2007 affirmed a January 20, 2007 appellate panel ruling that both
Dallas Crown and Beltex have killed horses for human consumption in
violation of a 1949 Texas state law.
“As a result of the [Kollar-Kotelly] ruling, the USDA pulled
its on-site inspectors, including a veterinarian, from the DeKalb
slaughterhouse. The slaughter then ceased,” wrote Chicago Tribune
staff reporter John Biemer. The Belgian-owned Cavel Inter-national
slaughterhouse killed about 1,000 horses per week, employing 55
people, Cavel general manager James Tucker told Biemer.
Continued Biemer, “The Cavel plant processed the meat from
horses who had already been slaughtered, Tucker said. The company
turned away six trucks containing about 200 horses, sending them
back to suppliers. Local horse lovers tried to arrange for homes and
shelters to take them in. Gail Vacca, a Wilmington-based
SAPL, said she had lined up quarantined stalls for at least 100 horses.”
HSUS and Habitat for Horses, of Hitchcock, Texas, claimed
to have found placements for another 400 horses.
But Illinois Department of Agricul-ture division manager for
food safety and animal protection Colleen O’Keefe predicted to Biemer
that the six truckloads of horses would probably end up at Canadian
The rescue effort ended up saving only 30 horses, whose
Colorado owner contacted HSUS after learning that the horses could
not be killed in DeKalb.
Said HSUS, “This group of horses was standing in line
waiting to be slaughtered when news of the decision reached officials
at Cavel International. While horses still waiting in trucks in the
plant’s parking lot were routed to slaughterhouses in Mexico and
Canada, these horses were reloaded onto a truck bound for a
stockyard in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“HSUS agreed to pay the owner’s expenses, and is partnering
with the Denkai Animal Sanctuary in Carr, Colorado, to rehabilitate
the horses so that they can eventually be placed with loving owners.
According to USDA data, 100,800 horses were killed in 2006
by Dallas Crown, Beltex, and Cavel. About 30,000 horses were
exported for slaughter in Mexico and Canada.