08/03/2013 7:09AM

Restraining order temporarily delays opening of horse slaughter plants

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A federal judge issued a restraining order on Friday in a lawsuit against two proposed slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Iowa, temporarily halting plans to open both facilities next week.

Judge Christina Armijo of the U.S. District Court of New Mexico issued the order and scheduled another hearing on Monday, Aug. 5, for the lawsuit, the Associated Press reports. The lawsuit was brought by The Humane Society and other animal rights groups against Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., and Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa. Both companies were prepared to open their plants next week, which would have resumed horse slaughter in the U.S. for the first time in six years.

The Humane Society and fellow groups contend that the United States Department of Agriculture failed to conduct necessary environmental studies before issuing permits that allowed the plants to operate. The USDA granted a permit to the New Mexico facility in late June after it met the legal requirements.

Horse-slaughter plants operated in 2007 before Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for plant inspections. Funds were restored in 2011, but the USDA had not granted any permits to open plants until this year. The USDA has included language in its 2014 budget proposal that would eliminate federal funding for the inspection of horses at slaughter facilities.

Earlier this week, the owner of Valley Meat Co. alleged that arsonists had struck his facility on July 27, disabling the refrigeration units. Director, actor, and activist Robert Redford is among those involved in the lawsuit, announcing last week that he had formed a foundation with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to oppose the re-opening of horse slaughter facilities.