CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) About a dozen wild horse advocates gathered in front of the state capitol to protest a recent move by the Board of Agriculture to hand the Virginia Range wild horses over to private ownership.
"I see the worst case scenario is they will do a gather, probably multiple gathers, and remove all 3,000 or more horses from the Virginia Range, which is 300 square miles, and they will send them to auction. And they will go to slaughter," says Louse Martin, a wild horse advocate.
In its nearly unanimous vote, the board in its decision last month said slaughter was not their intent. However, private ownership of the Virginia Range herd means the new owners could do whatever they wanted to the horses.
Martin says it could mean millions of dollars in horse meat to whomever signs the agreement. Proof the horses have value. But advocates say the animals have value alive as well.
"I used to be head of the Chamber of Commerce for Virginia City, and they would come in and they would say, that absolutely made our trip. Not the gambling, nothing else, seeing the wild horses," says Julia Lee, another wild horse advocate.
Advocates say the nature of the contract makes it nearly impossible for any group to take on the ownership of these horses. Liability alone would be cost-prohibitive, not to mention branding and even birth control. That's why they believe anyone who gains ownership will want to get their money's worth.
Slaughter, they say, is the quickest and easiest way to make money on what they call an invaluable and irreplaceable resource.
Wild horse advocates says they will be in Carson City again Saturday, January 6 at 5;00 in the evening for a candlelight vigil. The public is invited to attend.