ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A federal judge on Aug. 2 issued a restraining order that has temporarily stopped companies in New Mexico and Iowa from slaughtering horses. US District Judge Christina Armijo issued the restraining order following a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups.

"While disappointing, this is really just the very first skirmish in what will inevitably be a long haul," said Sue Wallis, chairman of the International Equine Business Association and a rancher in Wyoming. "We have proven already by our progress to this point that the horse industry will not lay down and die. We will not quit. We will continue to fight to our dying breath to preserve our way of life, to protect our horses, to protect our lands, and our freedoms."

Efforts to block horse slaughter in the United States have been ongoing since Congress lifted a ban on funding horse meat inspections. Groups such as The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation have filed a lawsuit under the National Environmental Protection Act.

“We’ve won a temporary but life-saving reprieve for horses, and it’s good news indeed that the kill boxes in New Mexico and Iowa will be empty of horses in the weeks ahead," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS. We’ll continue to make arguments when our case resumes in a month that these plants cannot legally operate because of inadequate environmental review.”

The US Department of Agriculture has so far issued grants of inspection to Sigourney, Iowa-based Responsible Transportation LLC and Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM. A facility in Missouri had applied for grants of inspection.

Wallis said a bond hearing will be held in the next week or two to determine the amount of money plaintiffs would have to put up in advance to cover financial losses to the companies if the plaintiffs lose the lawsuit. An attorney for Responsible Transportation said the company borrowed $.15 million and received another $1.4 million from investors. An attorney for Valley Meat Co. is requesting $10 million be set aside, AP reported.

The hearing and a decision on the injunction will come in the next 30 days.