Six wild horses slaughtered under new federal law
Associated Press Writer
RENO – Wild horses rounded up on federal land in the West and sold to a private owner have been slaughtered for the first time since a new law went into effect, a government official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“This is something we regret and are very disappointed this has happened,” said Celia Boddington, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Washington D.C.
“We make every possible effort when the horses are sold to make sure the animals are placed in good homes for long-term care,” she said.
The BLM is investigating this month’s sale of six wild horses to an Oklahoma man and their subsequent slaughter at a commercial packing plant in Illinois, Boddington said.
In December, Congress repealed the 34-year-old ban on slaughtering wild horses that run free across the West. The move has brought a backlash from activists who want to reinstate full protection for the mustangs.
Officials for the Humane Society of the United States learned of the slaughter Thursday and protested to the BLM.
“There is no way this current system will work to protect horses,” said Nancy Perry, the Humane Society’s vice president for government affairs.
“Until new legislation passes, our wild horses are going to be in jeopardy,” she said from Washington D.C.
Boddington said most of the horses rounded up and sold under the new law come from Nevada, but “we cannot confirm definitely they came from Nevada,” she said.
For security reasons, BLM won’t identify the holding facility where the horses were kept before they were sold, Boddington said.
“We are concerned about possible threats,” she told AP.
The BLM apparently was first made aware of the slaughter by an inspector for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Boddington said.
The horses were identified by federal brands, she said.
USDA officials in Oklahoma City did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Perry said a man who identified himself as a minister in Oklahoma told BLM he intended to use the horses in a program for troubled youth and bought them April 15. The Oklahoma man has not been identified.
The horses were sold for slaughter on April 18 to Cavel International in Illinois, Perry said.
“The BLM says they prescreen the buyers, but obviously that isn’t working,” she said.
There was no answer Thursday night at Cavel International Inc. in Dekalb, Ill.
The new law, written by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., was passed at the urging of ranchers concerned about overpopulation of the horses and their effect on the range. Burns did not immediately return messages left Thursday night at his offices in Washington D.C., Helena and Bozeman.
The law dictates the sale of those horses that are older than 10 years or had been offered for sale under a separate BLM adoption program three times without being purchased.
BLM recently launched a project aimed at selling such horses in groups to established horse protection groups and sanctuaries.
“Obviously we are required by law to sell these horses. In the bill of sale there is a statement that says the buyer will provide humane care for the animals,” Boddington said.
“But once the animals are sold, they are private property,” she said.
Previously, under the adoption program, buyers had to keep the horses for at least one year before they obtained the ownership title to the animal, Boddington said.
BLM has sold and delivered nearly 1,000 horses since the new law passed. Some 950 more have been sold and are awaiting delivery.
“This is the first time we’re aware” any have been sold for slaughter, Boddington said.