October 25, 2018
A federal lawsuit was recently filed in California by the American Wild Horse Campaign and Animal Legal Defense Fund with the hope that it will “block the US Forest Service from capturing and selling wild horses for slaughter.” Nowadays, there are very few wild horses running free in America’s not so wild West, and this new lawsuit hopes to save the few that remain.
The suit was filed in response to the fact that the Forest Service is currently working to round up “1,000 horses in the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory on the Modoc National Forest in California, with plans to sell the creatures for a dollar each, without limitation, if the captured animals aren’t bought within 60 days.” If the Forest Service accomplishes that, the wild horses may end up “trucked across the border to Mexico and Canada, killed, and sold as meat for human consumption abroad.”
It turns out, there are very weak restrictions on the sale of “excess wild horses,” largely due to the fact that last year the Trump administration, “under pressure from ranchers with livestock roaming on federal land, particularly the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and state rancher groups, removed limitations on sales of excess wild horses.” Now, the Forest Service is acting on the administration’s policy.
Under the policy, “horses over the age of 10 will be sold under the new, less-restrictive policy if they aren’t picked up by buyers soon.” Another 700 younger horses are expected to be sent to “Bureau of Land Management holding corrals, where they will be offered for adoption.” Any young horses who aren’t adopted after a year may be sold without limitation. Already about 388 horses have “been herded by helicopter and removed from the California federal forest lands where they still run free.”
While commenting on the decision to file the suit, Suzanne Roy, the executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said:
“The vast majority of Americans want our iconic wild horses protected on our public lands, not slaughtered. The Forest Service’s decision to treat these national treasures like trash by selling them by the truckload into the slaughter pipeline is unconscionable. Even worse, this is happening in California, a state that has banned the cruel practice of horse slaughter for two decades.”
In the suit, the American Wild Horse Campaign and Animal Legal Defense Fund claim the Forest Service is selling the wild horses “without limitation in violation of the California ban and without allowing any notice or public comment, as required by federal statute.” In fact, back on October 4, Ken Sandusky, a Forest Service official, “acknowledged that unlimited wild-horse sales are unprecedented” and stated that “basically everything we’re doing is new,” according to the suit.
In filing the suit, both the American Wild Horse Campaign and Animal Legal Defense Fund hope that “a court will stop the sales.” They even have the support of a few governmental authorities, including California Democrat Senator, Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein sent a letter to the acting chief of the Forest Service, Vicki Christianson, “calling for a halt of the roundup and sale of wild horses in her state.”
Other California legislators, Democrats and Republicans alike, have also stated they want the horse roundup stopped.