Actor, director, and conservationist Robert Redford has joined with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson in the fight to stop horse slaughterhouses from reopening in the United States.
Their opposition is the first action by a new foundation the two have formed to protect animals and wildlife.
The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife has filed in federal court to join as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by animal protection organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue, to block the revival of American horse slaughter.
The lawsuit claims the US Department of Agriculture violated federal law by failing to conduct required reviews of the known environmental dangers caused by horse slaughterhouses, including one trying to open in Roswell, New Mexico.
The foundation and other plaintiffs are seeking an emergency injunction. A hearing is set for August 2, with two plants signalling they could be slaughtering horses as soon as August 5.
“As a lifelong horse lover, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to stop the return of horse slaughterhouses in this country and, in particular, my own state,” Richardson said.
“Congress was right to ban the inhumane practice years ago, and it is unfathomable that the federal government is now poised to let it resume. As a country whose rich history is so closely tied to horses, we should instead be focused on exploring new horse rescue and retirement solutions.”
Redford said: “Horses have played an important part of my life, and I strongly believe they need our protection.
“Horse slaughter has no place in our culture. It is cruel, inhumane, and perpetuates abuse and neglect of these beloved animals. We must oppose it with all of our might.
“We need to ensure horses have safe and kind treatment during their lives and are afforded the peaceful and dignified end they deserve.”
In addition to its opposition to horse slaughter, the new foundation will focus on the preservation and protection of the state’s wild mustang and burro population, including seeking out appropriate alternative habitats for the animals. Other efforts will focus on the Mexican gray wolf, bison and the reintroduction of native fish and mammal species. The foundation will also work to support New Mexico’s animal shelters and to prevent animal cruelty.
The foundation is a natural extension of both men’s decades of animal advocacy and conservation work.
As governor, Richardson spearheaded legislation and enacted polices aimed at preserving and protecting New Mexico’s wildlife and domesticated animals. He fought to ban cockfighting, increased funding for animal shelters, and enacted more humane euthanasia practices in shelters. He made natural habitat and restoration a priority and supported the reintroduction of native species, including the Mexican gray wolf.
Most recently, he was instrumental in convincing the National Institutes of Health to halt medical testing on chimpanzees, many of which are housed in Southern New Mexico at the Alamogordo Primate Facility.
Redford, a part-time New Mexico resident, is a renowned conservationist and animal advocate.
For decades he has fought to protect national resources. He is a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and has received countless accolades for his efforts, including by the National Wildlife Federation.
By entering the lawsuit against the USDA, Richardson and Redford are also standing with Native American leaders, who have asserted that federal approval of horse slaughter constitutes a violation of tribal cultural values and is an insult to their age-old connection with America’s horses.