A federal judge in New Mexico Aug. 2 issued a restraining order that will keep two horse slaughterhouses from opening as planned the week of Aug. 4.
U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo acted in response to a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and other organizations that oppose slaughter. She has scheduled another hearing for Aug. 5 .
The groups that filed suit contend the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to do the proper environmental studies before issuing permits that allowed companies in Iowa and New Mexico to open horse slaughterhouses. The horse meat would be exported for human consumption and for use as zoo and other animal food.
Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., has been at the fore of the fight, pushing for more than a year for permission to convert its cattle plant into a horse slaughterhouse. The USDA in June gave the company the go-ahead to begin slaughtering horses.
USDA officials said they were legally obligated to issue the permits, even though the Obama administration opposes horse slaughter and is seeking to reinstate a congressional ban that was lifted in 2011. Another permit was approved a few days later for Responsible Transportation in Sigourney, Iowa.