When Congress passed a spending bill earlier this month to keep the government from shutting down, it quietly lifted a funding ban on horse meat inspections—meaning horses can once again be butchered in the US for human consumption, and slaughterhouses could open within 30 to 90 days. The US has no outright ban on horse slaughter, although two states do ban it and many others regulate the sale of horse meat, but funding for horse meat inspections was cut off in 2006. Congress did not allocate new money to pay for inspections, meaning the USDA would have to find the money within its own struggling budget.
The USDA says that no US slaughterhouse currently butchers horses for human consumption, but that if one opens, it will conduct inspections. Most of the meat produced would be sold in European and Asian countries, the AP notes. Animal welfare activists are not happy, and promise outcry if a slaughterhouse opens, but those who advocate for slaughterhouses say that the ban increased horse neglect and abandonment. Some such activists are working to open a plant in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, or Missouri, and one president of a pro-slaughter group says many investors are interested. (Read more horse stories.)