Wild Horse Protection: Where Do We Go From Here?

September 8, 2017

Update: The Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 8. This means healthy wild horses and burros will continue to be protected from slaughter under federal law for the next few months. But work on 2018 spending legislation will continue, so we have to keep the pressure on! 

September 7, 2017

Special interests and backroom deals pushed by three horse slaughter proponents this week have put wild horses and burros squarely in the crosshairs. Even the cartoon “Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock would have a hard time recognizing the scheme used by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Chris Stewart (R-UT) to ensure their wild horse killing provision would not be debated in the full House of Representatives. And this trio is hoping you never even hear about it.

Late last night in Washington, the House Rules Committee voted down a bipartisan amendment to HR 3354 which would have protected wild horses and burros from slaughter. HR 3354 is the “omnibus" appropriations bill the House is considering to fund Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2018.

Tucked away in the nearly 3,000 pages of legislative and report text is a section that has for years protected wild horses and burros from being destroyed or sold for slaughter. But this year, at the insistence of Zinke, Stewart, and Calvert, the prohibition on the BLM’s killing of healthy wild horses and burros was removed in the House version of the omnibus bill. The language was stripped without a recorded vote, allowing members to avoid accountability for voting to slaughter wild horses. 

The bipartisan amendment offered by Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV), Peter King (R-NY), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), would  have restored the prohibition on killing healthy horses, sparing tens of thousands of animals now in holding pens and those still remaining on the range from being destroyed.

Traditionally, bills like HR 3354 are considered with an open amendment process, allowing all Representatives input into the final bill. This year, House Leadership was determined to limit input into the process as much as possible, even to the point of not allowing debate on a bipartisan, publicly-supported amendment to protect wild horses from mass killing. This amendment was likely to pass a full House vote, which is why leadership, on behalf of Zinke, Calvert and Stewart, quashed it in the Rules Committee.

A similar bipartisan amendment to keep horse slaughter plants closed in the U.S. was also killed by the same committee.

Backed by of the powerful Cattlemen's/Farm Bureau lobby, horse slaughter proponents in the House are doing everything they can to hide the fact that they are acting against the wishes of more than 80% of the American public in allowing wild horses and burros to be slaughtered. Even worse, they’re doing it without the BLM having even tried  to use PZP fertility control, the only scientifically proven method to humanely control population growth of wild horses on the Western range. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that the BLM utilize PZP fertility control to manage wild horse herds, but the agency has actually reduce its use of the vaccine since that time. Currently, BLM spends zero percent of its budget on humane birth control. 

Where We Are

In the coming days, the House will likely pass HR 3354, allowing BLM to kill wild horses and burros they deem inconvenient. But here’s where Schoolhouse Rock’s “Bill” still gets it right. The Senate must also agree to the same horse slaughter provision for it to become law. 

Where We’re Going

As a result, our efforts to prevent the senseless and inhumane slaughter of wild horses and burros will now shift to the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee will likely take up BLM’s budget later in September and we will be there fighting to ensure that protections for wild horses and burros are included. We will be working with Senate offices to make sure any funding bill continues to protect wild horses and burros.  The special interest groups determined to legalize the slaughter of America's horses will be there too. 

The fight will be difficult, to say the least. The groups that want to rid our public lands of wild horses in order to cheaply graze more cattle on them will spend millions lobbying Senators to keep their grazing "rights" and subsidies, but we have the American public on our side. We just need to make sure that every Senator knows the truth about the issue and knows where Americans. citizens stand when it comes to protecting these iconic animals on our western public lands.

What You Can Do

Here's where you come in! You are the critical element necessary to ensure that remain protected. The legislative process explained in Schoolhouse Rock may have taken some hits in recent years, but it’s still grassroots activism by everyday Americans that makes things happen in Washington. Your Congressperson and Senators will only know it matters to you if you call and write and demand they take action to protect wild horses and burros. Join us at the AWHC because our work in Washington only works if you’re standing and speaking with us. Please get involved, call or visit your Congressperson and Senators tell them to stand with 80% of all Americans who agree that we must protect these magnificent animals and their habitat, and oppose all backroom deals that imperil America’s horses and burros – both domesticated and wild.