If approved by the President, the Senate and House-passed $1 trillion spending bill will put the controversial horse slaughter topic to bed, for now.
The measure, passed by the House earlier this week and the Senate Thursday night, removes USDA funding for the inspection of horse slaughterhouses. Without USDA inspectors on-site, horse processing can't continue, even if state laws allow it.
It's an ongoing issue that has found its way into the U.S. court system and several heated discussions in state and federal legislatures. And, it's no stranger to funding cuts. Though often referred to as a "ban" on slaughter, funding for USDA inspectors at horse slaughterhouses was first eliminated in 2006. It was reinstated in 2011, leading to the attempted return of horse slaughter facilities in New Mexico and Iowa.
The prospect of the return of horse slaughter had its fans and its opponents, but the arguments on both sides are often marked by the emotional tie that many bring into the debate.
"Americans do not want to see scarce tax dollars used to oversee an inhumane, disreputable horse slaughter industry," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the animal rights group the Humane Society of the United States. "We don't have dog and cat slaughter plants in the U.S. catering to small markets overseas, and we shouldn't have horse slaughter operations for that purpose, either."
Opponents of horse slaughter argue that horses in the U.S. aren't raised specifically for slaughter, and may have been given prohibited substances at some point in their life that affect the safety of the final product.
But proponents say the glut of surplus horses in the U.S. cannot be fixed with sanctuaries or adoption, and having slaughterhouses within the U.S. may cut down on the number of horses trucked to Mexico and Canada for processing.
For Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., the decision to oppose the funding package included several reasons, but his concern with funding for horse slaughter was built on an economic view.
"Another specific issue that contributed to my 'no' vote (on the omnibus bill) was the loss of jobs that will result from the lack of funding for federal inspectors in the horse processing industry," Mullin said in a statement.
"This attack on the horse processing industry is an attack on the entrepreneurial spirit and a prime example of the federal government effectively putting an entire industry out of business. In our current economy, we have to be focused on creating jobs and not picking winners and losers," he said.