Yet another roadblock has been thrown into the path of Valley Meat Company of Roswell, New Mexico.

New Mexico State District Judge Matthew Wilson ruled to extend a temporary order that prohibits the plant from opening and he has set a new hearing in the case for Jan. 13.

The legal action marks the third time in less than a year that a temporary order has prevented the plant from opening its doors.

The latest legal action came in the form of a lawsuit filed by New Mexico State Attorney General Gary King that alleges the plant would violate New Mexico's food safety laws, would result in water quality issues and would violate the state's unfair practice law. That suit was filed Dec. 31 and resulted in the issuance of the third temporary restraining order to block the plant's opening in a five month period.

The planned conversion of the meat processing plant from a beef plant to a facility designed to slaughter horses has been roiled in controversy over the issue of the humanitarian treatment of horses and the question of whether equine should be properly classified as livestock or companion animals.

It has divided ranchers, animal protection groups, and even Indian tribes and has captured the attention and interest of an entire nation.

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The practice of horse slaughtering in the United States ended in 2007 when lawmakers in Texas and Illinois passed laws that closed down horse slaughter facilities in their respective states. It was also the first year that Congress failed to fund United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat inspections at horse slaughter facilities, effectively preventing the issuance of any new permits for horse slaughter operations.

But in 2012 and again in 2013, those funding limitations failed to be included in the federal budget. Also, a severe drought that limited horse owners’ abilities to feed and water their equine stock, often resulting in abandonment of horses that were left to perish from starvation or fall to predators, resulted in a number of companies in several states filing for a USDA permit.