Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses During Reign of Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

By on October 26, 2015 with 24 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

On Friday, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a damning report about the Bureau of Land Management’s mismanagement of wild horses. The report concluded that agency officials did nothing to prevent a notorious livestock hauler from acquiring nearly 1,800 wild horses and burros over a four-year period and handing them over to kill buyers who sent them to Mexico to slaughter for human consumption. The OIG report exposed the behavior of a Colorado hauler between 2008 and 2012 – overlapping closely with the tenure of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, long criticized for his poor oversight of the nation’s wild horse program. According to the OIG report, the hauler, Tom Davis, allegedly “had farming and trucking connections” with Salazar. The OIG report notes that Davis began gathering horses from the BLM after Salazar took office as Interior Secretary (the BLM program is part of the Department of the Interior and therefore was under Salazar’s control).

Years ago, The Fund for Animals sniffed out the problem of the BLM rounding up horses and then selling them at bargain-basement rates to transporters and kill buyers who shipped them to slaughter plants throughout North America. In response, the BLM reformed its practices, stipulating that no individual could “adopt” more than four horses and burros through the agency’s adoption program. In recent years, as a further safety net, The HSUS worked hard to secure language in the Interior spending bills, further stipulating that no wild horses could be sent to slaughter. That language was included in the 2009 Interior spending bill and all subsequent ones, covering the period during which Davis engaged in his illegal conduct.

The BLM wild horse program has been wracked by mismanagement for decades and in recent years the BLM has gathered more horses from the range than can be absorbed into the adoption system. This has resulted in nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros being held in short-term and long-term holding facilities, with costs associated with this program consuming 60 percent of the agency’s entire budget. It’s become as much a captive wild horse management program as a wild horse program.

We at The HSUS have long advocated for more extensive use of the fertility control vaccine PZP as a way to keep horses on the range and to check the growth of the population as a means of obviating the need for the costly and often inhumane round-ups. The National Academy of Sciences has also taken a critical view of BLM’s management and urged the agency to make more common use of the PZP contraceptive vaccine as a means of limiting fertility on the range.

Now, the OIG’s report makes yet another compelling case for why round-ups pose extraordinary risks to wild horses – simply put, the agency has not conducted proper oversight of buyers. In 2012, at a campaign event for President Obama where Salazar was present, a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter asked the secretary about his association with the hauler. Salazar threatened to punch out the reporter, and later apologized for his threat. Putting aside any favoritism that may have been at work, it’s astonishing how one livestock hauler with his background was able to acquire such an extraordinary number of horses. The wrongful sale also cost taxpayers $140,000 to deliver truckloads of horses to Davis, according to the report. He paid $10 apiece for the horses, or less than $18,000 total, and made as much as $154,000 in profits by selling them for slaughter – a different kind of haul for Davis.

Salazar is long gone from the Interior Department, and that’s a good thing for horses and for animal protection concerns in general.  It’s now up to Secretary Sally Jewell to get this program on the right track, scale back the round-ups, and aggressively implement fertility control programs throughout the West. These fertility programs work, and the inertia to keep doing things the same old way must end. How many more scandals and reports can this agency endure before it brings fundamental change to this program?

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Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. US Gov’t Votes to Kill 45,000 Wild Horses, Advocates Want Them Saved | WGRC | September 14, 2016
  1. Robynne Catheron says:

    Now that the OIG knows what the rest of us have known for a long time, will there be any consequences for Salazar?

    What is the status of the secret, remote corrals where BLM employees have been known to deliver wild horses for illegal sale? Are they still in operation?

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s way past time the country is made aware of the rogue and illegal practices of the department entrusted to steward our wild horses.

  2. Dawn Lynn says:

    I live in Cheyenne and read local articles about this incident that indicate that Davis will not be held accountable for this. Totally unacceptable.

  3. Peggy Gonsalves says:

    These wild horses are beautiful creatures created by God to roam the land free. No one has the right to conduct a mass slaughter of these horses and I only hope and pray that this has all stopped, but feel for the horses that were subjected to this slaughter.

    • Mike P says:

      It seems Peggy, that wild horses in the Americas were brought here by the Spanish, in the 15 & 1600’s? God may have created them, but there were not to many in our neck of the woods way back when, although science did think at one time horses were in N America and disappeared for whatever reasons.

  4. Lane says:

    The BLM–for and by the ranching industry. How does the BLM continue to get away with their scandalous priorities???

  5. A Allen says:

    Literally sickening and heartbreaking. For great shame on our government.

  6. Marge says:

    Diane Feinstein is also on the BLM board and denies any of this.

  7. Mario says:

    NOW IT COMES OUT, over 5 years ago I posted that the wild horses were being sold for slaughter under then Secretary of the Interior Cowboy Ken Salazar ???? Well here it is. It is my hope that Mr. Salazar be brought up on charges of illegal horse slaughter and money laundering… THIS IS DESPICABLE, I can almost without a doubt promise that Obama knew about this as well…

  8. Diane Botti says:

    Let’s start a petition to defund the BLM. They not only kill our wild horses, they sell our public land to private developers. At least here in Nevada under Harry Reid’s watch. Also the head of the BLM in DC is Reid’s former chief of staff. He needs to go! The BLM needs to go.

  9. dot snowden says:

    Secretary Jewell has signed off on the blitzkrieg of horse round ups that is occurring across the united states right now.

    they are ZEROING out horses in several HMA’s.

    the mantra is *saving the range* but for EVERY horse removed they allow 1000units of cattle in. (1 calf + cow = unit) to the same range land.

    they are implementing a *permanent sterilization* of horses and considering it a *sanctuary* when those horses die, they will add other sterile animals until ALL are gone.

    Ranchers are allowed to fence off public land and keep horses from water access.

    Jewell is no better than Salazar, she TOLD the ranchers how to sue the BLM for more access.

  10. Barbara Griffith says:

    Mr. Pacelle,
    Someone at HSUS needs to look up and read the PEER WHITE PAPER that come out in 1997 this was 18 years ago. Horses To Slaughter Anatomy of a Coverup within the Wild Horse &Burro Program of the Bureau of Land Management. PEER is called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility they are located in DC as far as I know their E-mail: info@peer.org
    I made a copy of this White Paper a few years ago and from what I read in it I have my doubts as to there being 50,000 horses boarded out to numerous ranches or anywhere else in the US. I believe the BLM has sent all but a few hundred to slaughter they keep some out in the pens in several states so to pretend to the public that the horses are being taken care when they don’t exist anymore. There was one person that had been put in charge of the BLM in the 90’s that tried to shut down the shipping of the horses to slaughter but he was run out of his job before he could stop it. I don’t believe the slaughter has ever stopped it just went underground.

    When ever anyone has tried to get the addresses of the ranches that are supposed to be boarding the horses the BLM sites privacy that the ranchers claim they want, in other words they refuse to give you the whereabouts of the horses.which I think is illegal because the horses belong to the public because they were living on public land and its taxpayer dollars that are not only paying the bills but pay the salary of all BLM employees.

    This goes higher than these local BLM offices this needs to be investigated.

  11. Dee Reyna says:

    The BLM and Davis have to be held accountable, they broke the law. If we broke the law we would have to pay! So, because it’s the government that was Davis’s partner in crime they get a free pass. No, we news to make sure they pay the price for what they did. We need to let our congressmen and senators know if they want our votes again they will take action!!! It makes me absolutely insane to think my tax dollars went to send those poor horses to fate worse then death. It’s just disgusting what they try and get over on us!!!

  12. Tera Kramer says:

    Someone needs to be prosecuted for this unlawful act of cruelty. We will not look the other way! Justice now!

  13. Barbara Duncan says:

    People have known a long time what was happening to the horses but no one stopped it!
    I just hope that something or someone will do what’s right to help the defenseless
    horses! It’s about time that some one did something about this and some people should be in jail for what has happened to the horses!

  14. Susan Gilbert says:

    Why aren’t charges brig filed against him if enough people stand up for the horses they can’t ignore us there is strength in nbers people especially locals it is harder when you live across the country but letters and emails have been written!

  15. Linda Mathews says:

    Unfortunately, this does not surprise me at all. It seems corruption in the United States occurs from the top to the bottom; in all areas of government.

    I live in California and have contacted both Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer regarding preserving wild horses and finding humane solutions to overpopulation. It is clear that the clear winners here are the cattlemen who graze their stock on public lands and pay little to do so, at the expense of the taxpayers.

    Ask any one who has adopted a mustang and they will tell you that they make wonderful riding horses. They are superb on the trail because they are surefooted and they also are intelligent and easily trained. They have to be smart to survive in the wild!

    • Barbara Griffith says:

      Linda,
      There is no overpopulation so many of the horses have been rounded up that many of the few herds left are not viable for reproduction any more. And still they have the roundups and as soon as the horses are gone they truck in hundreds of sheep and cattle claiming there is no grazing or water. The cattlemen and sheep owners have full control over what happens to the horses I am sorry to say. There have been lawsuit after lawsuit filed in court against what the BLM is doing and each and every time the judge sides with the BLM. I believe the judges that have presided over the cases in court get a phone call from someone at BLM and tells the judge to kill the case which they do. I hope HSUS will look into all of this mess and see if it can be shut down before the horses are all gone forever.

  16. Sharon Dockins says:

    So farbSecretary Jewell has
    not shown any support of horses and BLM still has all of its problems. Jewell needs to take action in support of horses. The Secretary needs to respect the voice of the people.

  17. Nancy says:

    Hopefully, the Humane Society’s grade for the Obama administration is an ‘F’!

  18. Dawn Lynn says:

    There is an organization out there doing something about this already and has been working for wild horses for quite awhile. They have a petition on this issue here. http://act.wildhorsepreservation.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=21605

    Please sign!

  19. Deanna Rowan says:

    President Obama is complicit with what is going on with the BLM and the wild horses. He appointed Salazar and then Jewel as Secretary to the Interior and apparently his urban upbringing and activism has detached him from the plight of animals. We need to bombard the White House with calls for BLM reform or transferring the wild horse/burro division to the EPA and hope Obama acts positively before its too late for the horses. Where does Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders stand on this issue? 2016 is an election year…we need to act now.

  20. sheila cunningham says:

    Someome in the US has got to stop this slaughter of our horses, because of the cattlemen which want ALL THE land that is really PUBLIC and should be used by both cattle and horses…in fact the horses do little to no harm to the land ,where the cattle ruin it…the idea of slough;ted of these wonderful horses because of the greed of cattlemen in outrageous and should be stopped at the higher level…our government, senators and reps…and even the presicent..all should go to one of these slaughter facilities and watch what happens…they will change their minds….

  21. Gabino Arizola says:

    Ho’, Now as For PZP IT’S NOT THE ANSWER! When Your depending on information that’s over 10 years old according to the Professor that generated the official documents. The study of PZP is over 10 years old. New testing and evidence of the negative side effects have been documented and even presented to the Org. Using the Drug in the duration of a 22-month treatment of the Porcine zona pellucida immunocontraceptive vaccine, or PZP, to prevent future reproduction, can be detrimental and altering to the Entire Herd. The government has ignored studies indicating the fertility control drug PZP alters horse behavior and “can have significant and lasting effects on the birthing cycle” of wild horses

    She even before The Supreme Court Magastrate renounced Her findings that it was Safe to Use. The Way it disrupts the Natural cycle of the Herd is Phenomenal and More drastic and dertrimental that first thought. When a Mustang goes into Seaon there is a Gestation period that makes Him Aggressive among the other Stallions. So when no Mares are receptive you are getting all the Stallions rialled up and angry, Hurting one Another. Yet the Mares understand this reasoning but are unable to react to the Stallions. Now the Season passes and Frustrated the Stallions have so much Aggression built up its taken out on anything or anyone. So why Disrupt Nature and Help cover up something that the Public Already Knows Doesn’t Work. But Hurts Our Wild Horses in the Long Run. Instead of Trying To Push This PZP WHich doesn’t Work in the Wild, maybe on the controlled environment of a corralled system which the BLM Is Used to keeping Thousands of Our Wild Horses Anyway. Saying that it’s for loss of resources, when Again The Public Knows Different. I am a Animal Lover. By Nature. Being Shoshone Indian We are Taught to listen to the animals. For they were here before Man, This World Was They’re’s Then Man Was Created and Given Dominion over them. Not The Right of Life, or Desicions to say Who can or Can’t Breed! Only The One True Creator has that Say! Or That Right to Stop Creation! After All, He is The One who Gave Life To All Things, He Is The One True Creator of Everything that Lives and Breathes. Aho’

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