South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Ban on Horse Meat Production by State Does Not Violate Commerce Clause

Federal appeals court held that a ban by the state of Illinois on the slaughter of horses to produce horse meat does not violate the Commerce Clause, nor is it preempted by federal regulation of meat production.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Commerce Clause; Preemption; Horse Meat

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Cavel operated the last facility for slaughtering horses in the U.S. The Illinois Horse Meat Act was amended by the legislature to make it illegal for anyone in Illinois to slaughter a horse and sell its meat for human consumption. Enforcement of the Illinois law would mean a loss of $20 million in revenue and the loss of dozens of jobs. As most consumption was in Europe, this was a ban on exporting meat. Cavel sued for an injunction to block enforcement of the Act, contending the statute violated the Commerce Clause as it restricts interstate and international commerce. It also contended it was preempted by the federal Meat Inspection Act. The district court refused to issue an injunction; Cavel appealed.


Affirmed. The federal Meat Inspection Act did not preempt the Illinois statute. The federal Act regulated the production of horse meat for human consumption as long as such production occurred, but it did not mandate production. The Commerce Clause is not violated because the impact of the statute on interstate and international commerce is incidental to an evenhanded regulation that effectuates a legitimate local public interest. The local public interest is in extending the lives of the horses that many people oppose killing. Unless the ban on commerce is clearly excessive, in relation to the local benefits, it will be upheld.


Cavel International, Inc. v. Madigan, 500 F.3d 551 (7th Cir., 2007)

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