ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque federal judge Friday cleared the way for horse slaughterhouses to start operating in the U.S.
The ruling was centered around Valley Meat Company in Roswell, and it is sparking a strong reaction from both sides.
U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo ruled Friday that the slaughterhouse does not need environmental review.
Valley Meat is now moving forward with plans to finally open after two years of legal battles.
“What they are negotiating right now is when the inspectors will show up for the first day of work for the plant to be operating,” said A. Blair Dunn, an attorney for Valley Meat Company. “So, actually processing horses will be the first day, and that is what they are looking at hopefully doing next week.”
The judge's ruling comes just as a temporary restraining order keeping Valley Meat, and another slaughterhouse in Iowa from opening, expired.
Opponents of horse slaughter argued environmental reviews are necessary. They filed for an extension of the restraining order Friday, but the judge denied that.
The New Mexico Attorney General's office is among the groups fighting the slaughterhouses.
“The Attorney General is certainly disappointed in her decision,” said Assistant Attorney General Ari Biernoff. “We respect Judge Armijo's authority, and we respect her decision, but we strenuously disagree with it.”
A statement released by Attorney General Gary King said he and his staff are reviewing the decision and may file and appeal. The Humane Society of the United States has already decided it will appeal.
An Iowa slaughterhouse converted to cattle because of the ongoing legal fight, but now a slaughterhouse in Missouri is preparing to start processing horse meat as early as Monday.
Federal law does not allow the sale of horse meat for human consumption in the U.S. Instead, it will be shipped and sold overseas.
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