The 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill recently signed by President Obama contained a lot of things, but some animal welfare groups are upset about what it did not include.
Horse slaughter was effectively banned in 2006 when Congress prohibited the use of federal funds to have the USDA inspect horse slaughterhouses. However, the 2012 Ag Appropriations bill left that amendment out, paving the way for the industry to begin again.
Supporters of horse slaughter say since it was banned in the US horses have been shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter and prices have dropped.
"There's no salvage market for your horses," said Sherry Vinton, At Large Director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau. "Some of us that are fortunate and have enough space are able to just keep these horses until the end of their useful life."
But Vinton, a rancher and Quarter horse breeder too, says that's not the case for everyone. A report from the Government Accountability Office says since domestic slaughter was stopped neglect and abuse cases have gone up, but says the economy also contributes to unwanted horses.
Animal welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States argue that domestic slaughter does not stop neglect, and that even more abuse occurs during transport to slaughterhouses.
In a statement to 10/11 and Nebraska Central News HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle said, "Allowing federal funds to be used to inspect horse-slaughter plants would be a step backward for America's iconic horses and a waste of tax dollars. Americans don't eat horses, and they don't want them inhumanely killed, shrink-wrapped and sent to Japan or Belgium for a high-priced appetizer."
The HSUS supports a bill that would ban horse slaughter in the US and make it illegal to export horses to other countries for slaughter.
But slaughter supporters say it gives owners a humane alternative to abandonment or costly euthanasia.
"You got to have some place to go with these, and not everybody is able to euthanize a horse like you should," said Morrill County Farm Bureau President Jeff Metz.
The USDA says currently there are no slaughterhouses in the US processing horses for human consumption, but ag leaders believe the industry will come back.
The 2012 Ag Appropriations bill did not include any additional inspection funding, and slaughter opponents say it could cost taxpayers $3-5 million each year.