A temporary restraining order that prevents the opening of a horse slaughter plant in Roswell, New Mexico, has been extended for a further 10 days, to give parties time to submit more arguments.
Friday’s ruling was made by State District Judge Matthew Wilson.
The case, being taken by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King against Valley Meat Company, owned by Rick De Los Santos, will be called again on January 13.
Wilson heard two hours of arguments before extending the restraining order.
King’s challenge to the opening of the plant centers on environmental concerns, as well as the possibility that meat produced by the plant could potentially contain chemical residues.
King argues that horses are routinely given drugs banned for use in food animals. Most horses lack veterinary records that would help regulators and consumers decide if their meat was safe, he says.
For those reasons, he feels horse meat would likely constitute an adulterated product under the New Mexico Food Act, and therefore would be prohibited.
Judge Wilson was asked by Valley Meat Company’s lawyer, Blair Dunn, to require the state to post a bond so De Los Santos would be compensated if he prevailed in the case.
The judge said he would consider the issue at the next hearing.
Dunn alleged the court action was politically motivated, noting that King was running for state governor.
The January 13 hearing is scheduled to last a day, and both parties are expected to call witnesses.
Valley Meat Company is also awaiting a required permit from the state Environment Department for disposal of waste water.
The plant faces further hurdles. A wide-ranging spending bill to be considered by Congress in mid-January contains language that would halt federal funding of plant inspections by the US Department of Agriculture.
Without the inspections, horse slaughter plants would be unable to operate on US soil.
Horse advocates have also questioned whether US slaughter plants would find a ready market for meat in Europe, given that EU authorities have already indicated the American industry could not meet traceability requirements demanded under European law.
Horse slaughter plants have not operated in the US since 2007.