Wild horse advocates see a vote next week by the US House Appropriations Committee as crucial as battle lines are drawn over proposals that could see the animals sold for slaughter in their thousands.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and a host of other advocacy groups have taken issue with proposals by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be able to sell wild horses without limitation – that’s where the buyers provide no guarantees that the animals won’t end up butchered. The proposal, if approved, could trim $US10 million from the BLM’s straining budget.
Advocates believe the approval of sales without limitation would ultimately see thousands of wild horses end up in the slaughter pipeline.
The BLM is seeking the measure as a solution to the increasing cost of keeping thousands of wild horses in long-term captivity after mustering them from the western rangelands as part of its population control strategy.
However, the strategy has long been criticized as costly, inhumane, and ineffective.
Wild horse advocates are divided on the use of long-term contraceptives to control range numbers. The BLM has used this measure, which some advocates consider a viable solution to on-range population control, in only a limited way. Opponents of its use are worried about the potential for long-term harm.
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on the 2018 interior appropriations bill next Tuesday, July 18.
The HSUS says a draft of the bill contains protective language, but there was a chance it might be removed.
“Sanctioning the slaughter of tens of thousands of horses is a disgraceful, shameful idea,” the society’s president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, says.
“It is an unacceptable idea that will produce protests in the streets, from Reno to Washington, D.C.
“Mass slaughter will happen only over the cries, protests and interventions of the American people.”
The groups Protect Mustangs, the American Wild Horse Institute, and the Wild Horse and Burro Fund are among those lined up in opposition to the BLM proposal.
They believe that unlimited sales will result in wild horses going by the truckload to probable slaughterhouse buyers.
“America’s living legends of freedom are being managed to extinction by the federal agency in charge of protecting them and taxpayers would pay for extreme animal cruelty,” says the executive director of Protect Mustangs, Anne Novak.
She said the public wanted wild horses protected.
Novak said her group had offered to help adopt out all the 3-Strike Sale Authority wild horses – animals for which the adoption process had repeatedly failed to find them a home – but the BLM was “dragging their feet”.
The agency had asked for killing and unlimited sales to be funded despite the fact that the BLM’s adoption program was a fiasco, Protect Mustangs said.
Novak’s #NoKill Mustangs petition has gathered nearly 230,000 signatures.
Protect Mustangs’ Defund the Roundups and Stop the Slaughter Petition has more than 107,000 signatures.
Wildlife ecologist Craig Downer called for the protection of wild horses and burros. “They are an integral part of the ecosystem and prevent wildfires.”