Valley Meat Co., a Roswell, N.M. business that is trying to become the country’s only horse meat processing plant, has received federal approval to slaughter horses for their meat. The USDA said it was required by law to issue a "grant of inspection" to Valley Meat Co., because it had met all federal requirements, reports Reuters. Now, the USDA is obliged to assign meat inspectors to the plant.

The USDA also said it may soon issue similar grants for plants in Missouri and Iowa. Horse meat cannot be sold in the U.S., but it can be exported.

The plant has faced opposition to begin horse slaughter from both the federal government and horse advocates. President Obama has called for horse slaughter to be banned in the U.S., and activist groups like Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have threatened to sue the USDA, saying horses are raised as pets and as working animals.

Horse slaughter had been banned in the U.S. in 2006, when Congress denied the USDA any money to spend on horse meat plant inspectors. That prohibition expired in 2011, and while there have been numerous calls to reinstate the ban, Congress has not taken action on it.

Source: Reuters