Updated 11 a.m. 8/5/13
A judge for the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, N.M., Friday granted a temporary restraining order in the case of six animal rights groups and assorted American Indian tribes who oppose the opening of a horse slaughterhouse near Roswell.
The facility, operated by Valley Meat, Inc., was expected to open this week despite a suspected arson fire at the plant July 30, though the restraining order now prevents the plant's opening.
The groups opposing the plant filed an initial lawsuit under the National Environmental Protection Act, alleging the USDA failed to conduct an environmental review before authorizing the slaughterhouse to operate in June.
Along with the suit, an injunction and request for temporary restraining order was filed to immediately block the opening of the facility. The Humane Society of the United States, a plaintiff in the case, said the plant pollutes water and will "permeate the air with a foul stench."
"The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have fulfilled their burden to prove that environmental harm is likely to occur in the absence of the issuance of a temporary restraining order," the decision said.
Presding judge M. Christina Armijo also ruled that another hearing regarding the case be scheduled for Monday, Aug. 5.
Tribes from the Yakama Nation intervened in the case to support horse slaughter, citing a growing population of uncontrolled horses that have overgrazed the area used to support the Nation's cattle. Additionally, the Nation said wild stallions endanger their safety.
Other proponents of slaughter argue reopening of slaughterhouses will alleviate the growing number of abused or neglected horses.
Horse slaughter has not been permitted in the U.S. since 2006, when Congressional measures blocked funding for Food Safety and Inspection Service inspections on horse meat. Without the inspections, the meat is ineligible for trade or sale. However, the inspection funding was reinstated in 2012.
Meanwhile, At least six applications for horse slaughter inspections have been filed with the USDA, according to HSUS.
A slaughterhouse in Sigourney, Iowa, which has also been issued a permit to operate, was also expected to come on-line this week.
View the New Mexico court's horse slaughter decision here.