Forest Service Plan Puts Wild Horses at Risk of Slaughter


By Joanna R. Grossman, Animal Welfare Institute

via Herald and News (OR) - May 9, 2019


Earlier this week, 64 members of Congress expressed their strong objections to the US Forest Service’s plan to sell federally protected wild horses without restrictions on slaughter.


The horses at risk are from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, located in northern California. Such territories are public lands that have been designated under the law to protect wild horses and allow them to live in their natural habitats.


The Forest Service rounded up 932 Devil’s Garden horses last fall, claiming there are too many horses in the 300,000-acre territory. Seemingly endless roundups and removals are regrettably par for the course in terms of how the federal government manages wild horses. But the Forest Service’s announcement that it would remove restrictions on slaughter in order to expedite the sale of these animals was unprecedented.


Wild horses are protected under the landmark Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The statute mandates that the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protect these “living symbols” of our nation’s heritage from harassment or death.


Today, the Forest Service manages approximately 8,000 horses and burros across much of the western United States, from Montana to New Mexico.


The Forest Service has historically abided by the prohibitions that Congress passes each year through the appropriations process that bar the BLM from selling or transferring wild horses in any way that results in their destruction for commercial purposes.


These safeguards are included year after year because — even in a charged and polarized political climate — most lawmakers agree that our country’s mustangs shouldn’t end up on somebody’s dinner plate abroad.


Horse slaughter remains wildly unpopular in America — national polls show that 80 percent of Americans oppose it. This should come as no surprise, given the history of horses helping to build this country, their status as companion, performance, and working animals, and the total lack of a domestic market for their meat.


Still, tens of thousands of horses are transported to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico each year — a grim reality that would shock many Americans unfamiliar with this predatory industry. “Kill-buyers,” individuals who profit from selling horses into slaughter, typically buy horses to fulfill contracts with slaughterhouses abroad...