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Judge blocks planned horse slaughter at two plants

FILE - This April 15, 2013 file photo shows Valley Meat Co., which has  been sitting idle for more than a year, waiting for the Department of Agriculture to approve its plans to slaughter horses.  A federal judge in Albuquerque is expected to decide Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 whether companies in New Mexico and Iowa can begin legally slaughtering horses, for the first time in the country since it was effectively banned in 2006. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing, File)

FILE - This April 15, 2013 file photo shows Valley Meat Co., which has been sitting idle for more than a year, waiting for the Department of Agriculture to approve its plans to slaughter horses. A federal judge in Albuquerque is expected to decide Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 whether companies in New Mexico and Iowa can begin legally slaughtering horses, for the first time in the country since it was effectively banned in 2006. (AP Photo/Jeri Clausing, File)

A federal judge yesterday temporarily halted plans by companies in New Mexico and Iowa to start slaughtering horses next week.

U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo issued a restraining order in a lawsuit brought by The Humane Society of the United States and other groups in a case that has sparked an emotional national debate about how best to deal with the tens of thousands of wild, unwanted and abandoned horses across the country.

The move stops what would have been the resumption of horse slaughter for the first time in seven years in the U.S.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer Bruce Wagman said his clients were overjoyed with the ruling and had been “extremely distressed that horse slaughter was going to start up again in America.”

The groups contend the Department of Agriculture failed to do the proper environmental studies before issuing permits that allowed companies to open horse slaughterhouses. The companies had said they wanted to open as soon as Monday.

The horse meat would be exported for human consumption and for use as zoo and other animal food.

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