October 5, 2018
An estimated 1,000 wild horses will be rounded up and possibly slaughtered in California due to a lack of vegetation and water.
The US Forest Service said the round-up of animals will begin Tuesday and last through the month.
It will target horses from a herd in the Devil's Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory inside the Modoc National Forest, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Modoc National Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams said the area is supposed to have up to 400 horses but it instead has almost 4,000 animals.
The horses enjoy a range of more than 250,000 acres within the national forest, which is about two and a half hours northeast of Redding.
The US Department of the Interior oversees most of America's wild horses and burros and prohibits selling them to slaughterhouses.
However, the Forest Service is underneath the US Department of Agriculture, which has no such restriction.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) says the government is 'exploiting a legal loophole' that will result in the slaughter of hundreds of animals.
The horses will be made available for adoption.
However after a 30-day period all horses 10 years and older — an estimated 300 animals — will be made available for sale without limitations for $1 each.
The AWHC said this will 'allow kill buyers to purchase a truckload of 36 horses once a week until they are gone'.
Forest Service spokesman Ken Sandusky said that while the policy is new, this is also the first 'horse gather' on public lands in 13 years and that the Forest Service works with a variety of partners to adopt out as many wild horses as possible.
He added: 'The other option is long-term holding, which makes unlimited sale the only fiscally responsible option'.
Suzanne Roy, executive director of the AWHC, said: 'It's a sad irony that the first federally protected wild horses in decades to be purposefully sold by the government for slaughter will come from California — a state where the cruel practice of horse slaughter has been banned since the 1990s'.
The AWHC called on the Forest Service to make only incremental removals of horses 'so that humane placement of horses can be assured'.
The Forest Service argues that the population reduction is necessary to 'allow range and riparian ecological conditions to recover, while also supporting wild horse herd health by reducing competition for limited food, water and habitat'.
According to the Animal Welfare Institute, approximately 920,000 horses die annually in America (10 percent of an estimated population of 9.2 million).
The vast majority are not slaughtered, but euthanized and rendered or buried without any negative environmental impact. Just over 100,000 horses were slaughtered in the US in 2008.
If slaughter were no longer an option and these horses were rendered or buried instead, this would represent a small increase in the number of horses being disposed of in this manner.