Protection of Horses

Protection of horses - Photo by David Feltkamp

Case Name: The Humane Society of the United States, et al. v. Cavel International, Inc., et al.

Nature of Case: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) promulgated an Interim Final Rule regarding a horse slaughter inspection system. Specifically, the USDA had created a “fee for service” inspection system designed to facilitate the continued transport of tens of thousands of American horses for human consumption abroad. The Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs challenged the rule on the grounds that it violated requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs. An appeal was filed by Cavel International but the appeal was later dismissed as moot when the company went out of business due to the passage of legislation in Illinois banning horse slaughter.

Court: US District Court for the District of Columbia/US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Year Filed: 2006

Plaintiffs: The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, Doris Day Animal League, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Humane Association, Robert Eldridge, Gail Vacca, Juanita Smith, Judy Taylor, Tonja Runnels, Yolanda Salazar, Margarita Garcia, Javier Zuniga

Defendants: Cavel International, Inc.; Michael Johanns, Secretary, US Department of Agriculture; Barbara J. Masters, Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service

Status: Plaintiffs prevailed and appeal by defendants was dismissed as moot.

Find out more about the background of the case or learn more about horse slaughter.


In February 2006, President Bush signed legislation as part of an omnibus appropriations bill, preventing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) from spending funds to pay federally required USDA inspectors at the three remaining US-based horse slaughter facilities. The USDA immediately issued a policy permitting the horse slaughter facilities to reimburse the USDA for necessary inspectors thereby circumventing US law and Congressional intent. The Animal Welfare Institute along with other humane organizations and individuals challenged this action in court. The US District Court for the District of Columbia sided with the plaintiffs, finding that the USDA had violated federal environmental protection law. Cavel International, Inc., a horse slaughter facility in Illinois that had intervened in the case before the district court as an affected business, appealed but due to the passage of an Illinois law banning horse slaughter within the state, went out of business during the appeals process, rendering its appeal moot.