A temporary ban on horse slaughter and horsemeat processing has been added to a 2014 omnibus spending bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The measure once again bars the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using federal funds to inspect horsemeat--at least temporarily having the effect of outlawing an industry that has fought to regain a foothold since the last U.S. horse slaughterhouses were shuttered in 2007.
The federal spending bill will now move to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to pass it this week and send it to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.
That will resolve for a New Mexico judge the dilemma of whether to block a return of horse slaughter plants in that state.
"Slaughtering horses is inhumane, disgusting and unnecessary, and there is no place for it in the United States," Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a proponent of the measure, said in a written statement.
A New Mexico slaughterhouse owner had hoped to become the first in the country to operate in the United States since 2007, but a lawsuit was filed against Valley Meat Company by the state's attorney general, Gary King.
A ruling in the New Mexico case is expected on Friday, though it would be rendered moot by a USDA inspection ban, and the lawsuit may be withdrawn if Congress acts before the judge rules, said Phil Sisneros, spokesman for King.