. Horse slaughter is once again legal thanks to Congress.
Florida currently has some of the toughest laws against horse slaughter in the nation, but activists disagree over whether the practice could soon be booming in the Sunshine State.
"If someone were to open a licensed slaughter house in Florida and the USDA were to inspect it, then they could now sell horse meat," says Keith Dane of the Humane Society.
More than 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the practice, which may be why President Barack Obama quietly signed a bill containing the horse slaughter reversal via autopen while in Asia two weeks ago.
Although never explicitly banned, horse slaughter effectively became illegal in 2006 when Congress banned the USDA from using taxpayer money to inspect equine slaughterhouses. Since horse meat can't legally be sold without inspection, it was syonara basashi sashimi.
A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found, however, that just as many American horses were being slaughtered as before the ban, but the dirty work was being done in Canada or Mexico.
So on November 18, Obama signed a veto-proof, bipartisan omnibus agriculture bill that removed language blocking the inspections.
Dane says he doesn't blame Obama for signing the bill that will likely re-open horse slaughterhouses across the nation next year. "The president was staunchly opposed to horse slaughter when he was a senator from Illinois and he campaigned against it," he says. "But he didn't have a choice here."
Instead, the Humane Society's Director of Equine Protection says that the U.S. agricultural industry is at fault.
"Even though they represent a minority of Americans, they are a powerful and wealthy lobby," Dane says. "They were successful in convincing a relatively small number of appropriators... on the conference committee to overturn the ban."
He says Florida's strict laws against unlicensed horse slaughter -- passed in 2010 because of horrific accounts of horses being hacked to death while alive -- don't mean that legal slaughterhouses can't crop up next year in the Sunshine State.
But Richard "Kudo" Couto, who New Times profiled last year, believes Florida's laws should be enough to stop legal horse slaughterhouses from moving in.
"Florida only place that it is a serious crime to slaughter a horse," he says. "It will never and can never be legal to slaughter them in the state of Florida because of laws we helped pass last year."
In the 18 since those laws were passed, Couto has had his hands full documenting the black-market slaughterhouses in Hialeah that are still carving up stallions in squalid conditions. But he doesn't think USDA-inspected horse slaughterhouses -- in Florida or other parts of the country -- will be much of an improvement.
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"There is no humane way to eat a horse," he says. "Even if the drugs pumped into American horses didn't make them toxic
for humans, they are really smart animals and they are really agile. They move their heads and necks quickly so you really have to hold their heads like cattle to kill them. But while cattle will just stand there, a horse while thrash around."
"Sometimes it takes ten bolts to take down a horse," he adds.