01/14/2014 2:02PM

Judge upholds temporary ban on slaughter facility in New Mexico

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In the latest development from an ongoing legal case involving the resumption of horse slaughter in the U.S., a state judge in New Mexico upheld a temporary ban on the opening of a slaughter facility in Roswell after the state’s attorney general issued a preliminary injunction against the facility’s owners.

District Judge Matthew J. Wilson of Santa Fe announced Tuesday that he would decide by Friday whether to issue the injunction against Valley Meat Co. of Roswell sought by Attorney General Gary King’s office, reports the Albuquerque Journal.

Valley Meat Co. has conducted a lengthy legal battle in an attempt to re-open as a horse slaughter facility. Last summer, the Humane Society and other groups filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture, which had granted permission for Valley Meat Co. and other facilities to conduct horse slaughter for the first time in the U.S. since 2007. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge late last year but is under appeal.

The current injunction against Valley Meat Co. from the New Mexico attorney general’s office states that the facility would risk polluting the water supply near the site and also introduce drug-contaminated horsemeat to the food supply. A wastewater discharge permit for the facility has not yet been issued by state regulators.

In court arguments on Monday, an attorney for Valley Meat countered that the state environmental department has unnecessarily delayed the permit, that drug contamination arguments were speculative, and that the horsemeat produced in the plant would be shipped out of the country.

In another development, the Albuquerque Journal reports that former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson said last week that he is negotiating with the state’s Navajo Indian tribes on a pact that will provide philanthropic support as the tribes open horse sanctuaries and introduce other measures to manage feral horse populations. Richardson and actor-director Robert Redford founded the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife last year and have actively supported the Humane Society’s lawsuit.