By Jay Gormley, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texans fought to shut down the last two horse slaughterhouses in the country a few years back, but now there is a push to bring back the practice of slaughtering the animals for human consumption.

What’s most surprising is the reasons behind bringing them back, and who is behind it.

Two horse slaughterhouses, one in Kaufman, the other in Fort Worth, were the subject of outrage and debate a few years ago, and ultimately the federal government shut them down.

They were some of the last of their kind in the United States; both plants slaughtered horses and shipped the meat to other countries for human consumption.

The mere thought of eating horses still outrages many animal-rights groups.

“The United States has always taken a position that they’ve protected horses. There are certainly countries that eat dogs and cats. So do we start farming out and ranching dogs and cats for human consumption in those countries. I think not!” says SPCA of Texas President James Bias.

Wyoming State Representative Sue Wallis is in Las Vegas at a horse summit with a coalition of ranchers, horse owners, and the American Humane Association.  Wallis wants to bring back a slaughterhouse to her state.

She argues it’s a moral and ethical way to ease horse overpopulation, while providing an economic boost to rural areas.  “The animal-rights organizations have created a road block to a viable economic solution. They took one responsible solution and turned it into a plethora of problems and we need to reverse that course.”

In 2007, the federal government, under pressure from animal-rights groups, cut all funding for inspections of U. S. horse slaughterhouses. Since all inspections were halted, it became illegal to export horsemeat for human consumption.

Supporters who want to bring back slaughterhouses say it may be more humane in the long run. They argue that many horses are crammed into cargo trailers for a long and miserable journey to Mexico where they’re eventually slaughtered.

According the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the number of horses shipped to Mexico for slaughter has more than quadrupled since 2007.

“Sending animals to slaughter in Mexico and Canada is a problem and it does need to be addressed.  But slaughterhouses in the United States are not the answer.  These animals should be sent to housing and these breeders should be held accountable” says Eddie Garza with the Dallas chapter of Mercy for Animals.

Supporters of slaughterhouses say overpopulation has left ranchers without the means to care for their horses and many of those horses are often left to starve to death.