The U.S. Supreme Court declined an appeal in Cavel International Inc. vs. Madigan, meaning that the Illinois Horse Meat Act is constitutional, Cavel’s horse-slaughtering plant will remain closed, and we are deprived of what could have been an entertaining opinion. Nonetheless, the 2007 appeals court ruling, written by Richard Posner (PDF), is pretty great if you’re into that sort of thing. Richard Posner does not appreciate your citation of Bo Derek, Gov. Blagojevich. Some highlights:

“Horse meat was until recently an accepted part of the American diet—the Harvard Faculty Club served horse-meat steaks until the 1970s. No longer is horse meat eaten by Americans, Christa Weil, “We Eat Horses, Don’t We?,” New York Times, Mar. 5, 2007, p. A19, though it is eaten by people in a number of other countries, including countries in Europe; in some countries it is a delicacy.”

“The option of selling the animal for slaughter is thus financially more advantageous to the owner, and this makes it likely that many horses (remember that Cavel slaughters between 40,000 and 60,000 a year) die sooner than they otherwise would because they can be killed for their meat. States have a legitimate interest in prolonging the lives of animals that their population happens to like.”

“Of course Illinois could do much more for horses than it does—could establish old-age pastures for them, so that they would never be killed (except by a stray cougar), or provide them with free veterinary care. But it is permitted to balance its interest in horses’ welfare against the other interests of its (human) population; and it is also permitted to take one step at a time on a road toward the humane treatment of our fellow animals.”

“But even if no horses live longer as a result of the new law, a state is permitted, within reason, to express disgust at what people do with the dead, whether dead human beings or dead animals. There would be an uproar if restaurants in Chicago started serving cat and dog steaks, even though millions of stray cats and dogs are euthanized in animal shelters. A follower of John Stuart Mill would disapprove of a law that restricted the activities of other people (in this case not only Cavel’s owners and employees but also its foreign consumers) on the basis merely of distaste, but American governments are not constrained by Mill’s doctrine.”

“And while it is true that the foreign minister of Belgium wrote a letter to Governor Blagojevich inquiring about the status of the bill that became the horse-meat amendment, he did not say that his government was opposing the bill.”

“The fact that the governor’s signing statement acknowledges the role of the Hollywood actress Bo Derek, author of the book Riding Lessons: Everything That Matters in Life I Learned From Horses (2002), in outlawing the slaughtering of horses could be thought to inject a frivolous note into a law that forces the closing of a business that has very little to do with the people of Illinois.”

There’s some entertaining discussion at the WSJ’s law blog on Posner’s, um, unconventional inclusion of a picture of an adorable lion cub eating a horse-meat cake.