July 18, 2018 (Washington, D.C.) ... The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is changing a six-year-old rule put in place to prevent the sale of federally-protected wild horses for slaughter, and the nation’s largest wild horse advocacy organization is calling foul.
“The federal government is about to resume selling America’s cherished wild horses and burros by the truckload, sending potentially thousands of mustangs into the slaughter pipeline against the wishes of 80 percent of Americans,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). “This Administration appears hellbent on destroying America's iconic wild horse and burro herds, and this is the latest step on that path to destruction."
According to AWHC, the previous rule restricting the number of horses the BLM could sell to one buyer was put in place after the agency was exposed for illegally selling nearly 2,000 wild horses to a Colorado kill buyer who sent the horses to slaughter in Mexico. The illegal sale was affirmed by the Interior Department Office of Inspector General in 2015.
The 2013 rule prohibited the BLM from selling more than four horses to any one buyer without written approval of the Assistant Director of the BLM. The new rule allows the BLM to sell up to 25 horses to one buyer at a time, with no restrictions on the number of times that someone can purchase horses.
Under current law, the BLM can sell any horse over the age of 10 or any horse offered for adoption three times but not adopted. (Title for “sale authority” horses is transferred immediately, as compared to mustangs placed through the adoption program in which title is not transferred for one year.)
Congress prohibits the sale of wild horses to anyone who will sell them for slaughter, but the fate of “sale authority” horses is already difficult to track, and the new rule will make it even harder.
“When you’re selling horses by the truckload for $25 apiece, it provides a big incentive for slaughter,” said Roy. “Since riding a horse to his first day of work, Interior Secretary Zinke has galloped down a deadly path for America’s wild horse and burro herds – from asking Congress for permission to slaughter tens of thousands of these cherished animals to promoting the mass surgical sterilization of mustangs and burros on the range. Zinke is pushing the livestock industry agenda to rid our public lands of wild horses and trampling on the wishes of American citizens in the process."
AWHC said that the cattlemen view wild horses as competition for cheap taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing on public lands. (Ranchers pay $1.41 per animal per month to graze livestock on public lands compared to the over $20 per animal per month average to graze on private lands in the West. The federal grazing entitlement program costs taxpayers as much as $500 million or more annually.)
Although over 80 percent of BLM land grazed by livestock has no wild horses on it, the cattlemen continue to push for mass roundups, and the BLM, under Zinke, has been happy to oblige. The agency is on course to round up and remove over 10,000 horses from the range this year. The horses will be sent to holding facilities where 44,000 mustangs are already warehoused at taxpayer expense.
The American Wild Horse Campaign is a national wild horse advocacy organization whose grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.
- 2018 Rule allowing sales of up to 25 horses/burros per buyer without special permission
- 2014 Rule Limiting sales to 4 horses per buyer without special permission
- Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act
- Burns Amendment
- 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Act
- xAll the Missing Horses: What Happened to the Wild Horses Tom Davis Bought from the Gov’t?” (ProPublica, 2012)
- 2015 OIG Report
- 2016 Congressional Research Service Report on Grazing Fees
- 2016 Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Grazing on America's Public Lands"