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In North America, horses are largely companion animals and diligent workers. But thanks to a quietly lifted ban on funding horse meat inspections, horse meat could now be more readily available for consumption. In November 2011, U.S. Congress lifted the ban, which was initiated in 2006, in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law to keep the government afloat until mid-December. Although there currently are no horse slaughter operations in the United States (the last one closed in 2007), the lifted ban makes it possible for start-up operations to begin, albeit amidst protests from animal activists. In a statement, the USDA said that if a slaughterhouse were to open, the agency would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed.