After a years-long battle over an effective ban on horse slaughter in the U.S., advocates on both sides are grappling with how the federal government should handle the tens of thousands of excess wild horses, largely on western lands.
Some, including top voices on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration, say the most humane thing to do is for Congress to pass a law clearing the way for excess horses to be sold or euthanized.
Others are urging the Interior Department to look to alternative measures of population control, such as experimentation with birth control methods.
Currently, the wild horse population, which was estimated at 73,000 as of March 1, is about three times what’s considered sustainable and healthy, according to the Interior Department. That estimate is presumably low because of mating rates, which likely have added as many as 15,000 horses, said Jason Lutterman, a spokesman for the department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Adoptions, which are one way to reduce the wild population, have been problematic because the numbers dropped dramatically several years ago but now have increased.