Capitol Hill and America's Horses: Summer 2018 Update

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(June 4, 2018) Congress returns from the Memorial Day recess this week and, among other things, will turn its attention to the Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Process. (The fiscal year begins on October 1, so Congress must pass spending legislation by September 30 in order to keep the government running.

Once again, this process presents real dangers to America’s horses, particularly in the House, where pro-horse slaughter forces hold particular sway, despite opposition from 80 percent of Americans.

INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS

Each year, Congress includes language in Interior Appropriations legislation to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from destroying healthy wild horses and burros and selling them without restriction, which means selling them for slaughter. For the second year in a row, the BLM’s budget request to Congress seeks a lifting of the bans on the killing and slaughtering of wild horses and burros.

Last year, the House adopted the Stewart Amendment, introduced by Chris Stewart (R-UT), to allow for the mass killing of healthy wild horses and burros. Fortunately, the Senate listened to the vast majority of Americans and maintained protections against lethal management, and – thanks to your activism -- the final spending legislation passed by the full Congress for 2018 included long-standing protections for America’s wild horses and burros.

Unfortunately, the current House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee was recently forwarded out of the subcommittee with report language that, while avoiding a direct attempt to allow outright slaughter, instructs BLM to start the process to “immediately begin designing the regulatory framework and technical protocols for an active sterilization program,” and would analyze an option to kill healthy horses older than 10 years.

The House version of this legislation is a disaster for wild horses. The bill:

  • Once again fails to address wild horse and burro management in a comprehensive way, relying on schemes like mass sterilization that are certain to fail while actual, implementable solutions like PZP are ignored.
  • Ignores the findings of the BLM-commissioned National Academy of Sciences  (NAS) report, which specifically recommended against sterilizing wild horses via spaying and gelding.*
  • Fails to fund the use of scientifically recommended PZP birth control or direct the BLM to spend more than the ~0% of their budget on PZP programs.
  • Calls for removal of tens of thousands of horses from the range by relying on outdated and unscientific “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs, or the number of horses BLM allows to live in specific areas of public lands). The AMLs are so absurdly low that in some cases, they equate to the equivalent of three horses allowed in a public lands area the size of Rhode Island.
  • Doesn't comply with the statement of principles for wild horse and burro management endorsed by over 100 advocacy organizations.

* The NAS warned that ovariectomy -- surgical removal of wild mares’ ovaries, a barbaric procedure that can be seen here -- was “inadvisable for field application” due to dangers of bleeding and infection, and that castration (gelding) would result in reduction or complete loss of “male-type behaviors necessary for maintenance of social organization, band integrity, and expression of a natural behavior repertoire."

AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS

Each year in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, the Congress includes language to prohibit federal funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughter plants. Without these inspections, horse slaughter plants cannot operate in the U.S. to produce meat for human consumption. The provision is a de facto horse slaughter ban that keeps horse slaughter plants shuttered in the U.S.

This year, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture passed its spending bill out of committee without prohibiting USDA from certifying horse slaughterhouses, voting down Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s (D-CA) amendment that would have added it.

However, the Senate version of the bill includes the slaughterhouse ban after an amendment was added that prohibits the USDA from spending funds horse slaughter plant inspections. This horse-saving amendment was sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tom Udall (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that prevents the USDA spending on horse slaughter was added to the bill.

THIS SUMMER IS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP!

Once again, the House is leading the way as advocates of horse slaughter, first by not prohibiting USDA from approving horse slaughterhouses and second by telling BLM to create a program to surgically sterilize thousands upon thousands of wild horses in a gruesome process like this.  The agency and some in members of Congress tied to special interests, it seems, are willing to try any barbaric population-control scheme, instead of implementing PZP birth control, which is safe, certified to be effective by the National Academy of Sciences, and will allow wild mustangs to remain wild.  

Once again, we need your help to step in and speak up for these majestic animals who have no other voice in Congress.

As early as this week, the House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup hearing for the Interior spending bill. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) may again offer an amendment to the bill language to promote his agenda of slaughter and sterilization for America’s wild herds.  The bill already contains problematic report language calling for a surgical sterilization program and laying the groundwork for killing healthy horses and burros older than 10 years.  

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Below is a list of the members of the Appropriations Committee.

  1. Find out who your Rep. is here. (type in your zip code in box at upper right)
  2. If your Rep. is on the Appropriations Committee, take action here.
  3. If your Rep. is NOT on the Appropriations Committee, take action here.

Stay tuned for more alerts as appropriations legislation winds its way through the Congress this summer and fall.