Plans to begin slaughtering horses at meat processing plants in New Mexico and Iowa have been stymied by a federal judge in Albuquerque who granted a temporary injunction late Friday, at least until a hearing can be continued today, the same day the two plants were set to open.

Federal District Judge Christina Armijo issued a temporary restraining order and scheduled today’s hearing in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States and other groups who charged the United States Department of Agriculture failed to perform appropriate environmental studies before issuing federal permits that cleared the way for Valley Meat Company of Roswell, New Mexico, and Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, to open horse slaughterhouses, the first of their kind in the U.S. in over seven years.

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According to the lawsuit, waste water generated from slaughterhouse facilities represents an environmental hazard because of the large number of drugs routinely administered to horses. Attorney Bruce Wagman, representing the plaintiffs, told the court horses are known to receive over 100 types of drugs and slaughter houses should be forced to undergo review according to terms of the National Environmental Policy Act.

"The government is about to embark on a brand new multi-state program (and) we just don't know the dangers," he told the court.