Now that the U.S. Congress has quietly lifted a five-year-old ban on horse slaughter many observers think it's only a matter of time before horse meat processing plants reopen.
Some think horse slaughter plants could be back in operation in the U.S. within 30 to 90 days. At least two Wyoming groups are considering opening horse slaughter houses, one proponent says. State Rep. Sue Wallas, a member of the United Horsemen, said in an interview with the Saysar-Tribune that her group has formed a company to explore the creation of a horse meat processing plant. Others in states like Texas and Idaho are considering the same.
The USDA has said it will begin inspecting horse meat from slaughterhouses when and if the first ones are up and running. The last horse slaughter plant in America operated in Illinois in 2007. Horse slaughter was effectively ended in the U.S. due to a ban on funding for inspections.
But now that's over, and the Humane Society is one group that says it will protest any horse slaughter plants that open in the U.S.
That doesn't mean that Americans will be hunkering down to horse any time soon. Previously most of the meat from horse slaughter plants was shipped out of the U.S., to regions where people like to eat horse, or where eating horse is socially acceptable. In the U.S., the horse is considered something of the pet category.
So why is horse slaughter for meat likely coming back to the U.S. very soon? The most compelling reasons lawmakers slipped this one through is a matter of economics.
Some five million horses per year are butchered and sold for meat to the top eight horse-eating countries. Before the horse meat slaughter prohibition in the U.S. five years ago, the industry was an $65 million business domestically, mostly in the Midwest. Horses were butchered and some meat was sold to zoos that like the lean, high-protein product for the animals, while most of it was sold overseas to those who consider horse meat a delicacy.
In a slow-growth, jobless economy, some see that every little stimulation helps, even if it means slaughtering horses -- something many in the U.S. consider vile.
But when the ban took effect five years ago, it also effectively harmed the entire horse industry some advocates of horse slaughter in the U.S. say.
It's basic economics, said David Duquette, president of United Horsemen, which advocated for lifting the ban, in an interview with ABC News. Horses used to be a $102 billion a year industry, with at least 500,000 direct jobs in horse industry. That's been cut in half.
Duquette told ABC that there are people from North Carolina all the way out West that are wanting to set up a (slaughter) plant or invest in a plant. There's a tremendous amount of desire to get it going.
And it may happen soon, some some think horse meat slaughterhouses could be up and running in the U.S. within 30 to 90 days.
But it won't likely happen without a fight. Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States, threatened protests and legal actions if so in an interview with The Associated Press.
Local opposition (to plants) will emerge and you'll have tremendous controversy over slaughtering Trigger and Mr. Ed, Pacelle said.