Breaking news: U.S. reinstates safeguards to prevent wild horse and burro slaughter

By on March 15, 2019 with 14 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

In a major victory for our campaign to protect wild horses and burros, the United States this week reinstated important safeguards that will prevent unscrupulous kill buyers from purchasing large numbers of these iconic American animals and funneling them to slaughter abroad.

The Bureau of Land Management, the agency tasked with managing the nation’s wild horse and burro population, said it is returning to a 2014 policy that allows individuals and organizations to buy only four wild horses over a six-month period. That policy was put in place after investigations revealed a notorious kill buyer had bought nearly 1,800 wild horses from BLM and sent them across the border to Mexico to be slaughtered.

Last year, the Trump administration scrapped the 2014 policy and put in place a new sales policy that allowed 25 horses to be purchased at a time, with no time limit between the purchases. This created an extremely dangerous situation for the animals, where any buyer, including kill buyers, could purchase 25 horses one day, then go back the next day and buy 25 more horses, and so on. It was precisely this sort of exploitation that the 2014 policy had sought to end.

We are grateful that BLM recognized the pitfalls of this new policy and has acted to change course. Humanely managing wild horse and burro populations and ending horse slaughter are key issues for us here at the HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and we are working to resolve them on many fronts. The HSUS has been pushing for BLM to greatly expand their use of population growth suppression tools, which have been used to help manage wild horse and burro herds across the country, including in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, South Carolina and Utah.

Our HSLF staff has been working for many years with allies on the Hill to retain language in the appropriations bill that prevents the destruction of healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros or their sale to slaughter, and language that keeps horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States.

This year, we worked with members of Congress on the reintroduction of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R 961. This important bill, introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., will end the transport of wild and domestic American horses, burros and other equines abroad to be slaughtered for human consumption, and it would ensure that horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil remain shuttered.

The slaughter of America’s horses is not an issue that should even be up for debate. Please call your U.S. representative today and ask them to support the SAFE Act. Our horses and burros are a national treasure, and they deserve better than to endure the horrors of transport across the border and a cruel death so they can become food on someone’s plate overseas.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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

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  1. Viktoria Ks says:

    Why don’t they have an exception for wild horse rescues that can be verified to be able to handle the intake of more than four up to say 25, as long as they can prove that they are being well cared for and or adopted out to s safe homes? They could have a registration process whereby valid and verified rescue organizations could be on their list of preferred buyers.

    • Caryn Williams says:

      I don’t know of any rescues that aren’t nonprofits. They can’t afford to take in horses at that rate. 4 is good. 25 is to risky there is no reason they would need to adopt horses. At that rate

  2. Doraine Van Lew says:

    I am happy for this event, however I do NOT support the use of PZP to control the population. There is no over population of wild horses and burros. Only an over population of welfare ranchers cattle on PUBLIC LAND! We need to restrict the over grazing by privately owned cattle and sheep. That would truly be protecting our public lands and our wild life.

    • Janet says:

      You have no idea about the constant and critical care that ranchers and sheep herders provide to public lands!! They ARE THE STEWERTS of the public lands!! Do not be stupid. Care for the land they lease is the ONLY WAY their cattle survive to feed people!!!. Horses overgraze and destroy property. If you people who want the horses to reproduce would do a fraction of what ranchers do for public la do, you would have a clue as to what O am saying!! I live in a housing track. I am not a rancher, but I go out into the desert and see the destruction of wild horse herds to water holes and land. Sheep are allowed to do a great service in eating cheetos grass that is a major fire risk.

  3. Laura Brown says:

    Oh my some people just don’t have a heart, it would kill me to be in the situation. I think Trump didn’t even think of the buyers for slater. This is testable I wish my home was bigger! I love horses and burros, goats, cows I was brought up on a farm!

  4. Chris says:

    The BLM does a good job at wasting more then %60 of its budget renting helicopters to round up these precious animals. Rather then leaving them alone in the wild!

    • Mike says:

      Why don’t you donate to help offset the cost. As someone who has watched what a heard of burros does to a desert in a few years I donate every year to their removal. About 4 years ago a heard moved into a area I hike and camp a lot in and have for 10+ years. Well now the plants are fewer/farther between and you can’t go 50 yards with out swing burro sign.

  5. Anthony Marr says:

    A good piece of news, Ms. Block. This promise sounds civilized. But it begs the question as to how BLM can fulfill it, given: 1. that the wild horse population on the range in 2018 was 82,000 (according to many sources) and in 2019 likely close to 100,000 by the 15-20% annual-increase formula in the practical absence of natural predators (cougar and horse habitats seldom overlapping, and evidence of wolf predation on horse being “non-existent” according to the National Academy of Sciences), meaning some 70,000 over the AML of 26,600 as we speak, and increasing, and, 2. that the holding facilities, both short term (corral-type, capacity about 45,000) and long term (holding pastures, capacity about 30,000), are both at capacity. So the question is: While previous to 2018 the BLM could just round-up and dump the over-AML horses into the holding facilities, thus skirting slaughter (kicking the can down the road), what will BLM do with them now that these holding facilities are full (except to slaughter)? The only SOLUTION is by removing cattle from the range and increasing the AML for wild horses by the same amount – suggest 150,000. This would raise the current AML for horse of 26,600 up to around 175,000. This will allow the 100,000 wild horses currently on range to stay on range, and further returning the 75,000 captive horses back on to the range as well, totaling ~175,000, then controlling their population growth rate by Maintenance Contracpetion. Given the difficulties of on range remote darting, and the need for a booster shot after 30 days, a similar number of captive horses could be immunized before release, which would be far easier and less expensive. The BLM would lose about $3 million in grazing fee by removing the 150,000 head of cattle, but making room for the horse on the range and releasing the captive horses back on range will empty the holding facilities which, in combination of helicopter round-up expenses, currently consume over 90% of BLM’s annual budget of some $80 million, leaving just 1% for on range birth control. Closing these facilities and ending round-up will free up some $65 million per year for the BLM to do on range work, which far more than offsets the $3 million loss due to cattle reduction. With 150,000 cows removed (30,000 of which could be placed into the vacated holding pastures), which amounts to a 10% reduction of the current 1.5 million cows, while increasing horse allocation by 700%, it will cut cattle food demand by 10% which then can be allocated to the horse, with or without supplementary feeding. Contraception is necessarily, because, even if ALL cattle were removed from public land, the wild horse population will still sooner or later hit the wall – again due to the lack of control by natural predators. Basically it is between birth control and roundup-slaughter, your choice. Those saying that the wild horse can regulate its own population have not thought it through to see the result being population regulation by STARVATION, compounded by irreparable ECOLOGICAL DEVASTATION of the delicate semi-desert environment.
    The above proposal is outlined in my wild horse website: Please sign the petition therein addressed to Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV). Thank you.

    • Mike says:

      The only issue is one head of cattle is not equal to one horse especially since horses aren’t managed like cattle are. A rancher moves and grazes cattle to prevent over grazing. This will not happen with horses.

  6. Betty says:


  7. Gloria Espinoza says:

    Agree with Doraine Van Lew no PZP and her comment.
    Add mining, fracking, etc. to the mix and the horses continue to lose. They’ve already lost most of the land allotted to them in 1971 with further reductions increasing with the newest leases. Public land belongs to the people and should be returned to benefit our interests which includes the protection of wild horses, burros and all other wildlife.

  8. Iris Owens says:

    We absolutely need to protect our wildlife and their land. If we keep taking their land away from them them, the only wild animals out grandchildren will see will be in history books!!!

  9. Iris Owens says:

    We definitely need to protect our wildlife and their land. If we don’t protect them the only wildlife our grandchildren will see will be in history books!!!!

  10. Josh Black says:

    Public land is for enjoyment and to be protected not profit…if you own animals keep them on your land and you pay for feed. Its what they do in the midwest if you’re a dairy farmeror beef you have 200 acres and you feed em …No matter horse, burro, bobcat etc…should be left alone on those lands. Sell some cattle and feed em yourself.

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