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

By on March 15, 2019 with 40 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

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  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.

  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.

      • Nope says:

        Cattle ranching is not only destroying the environment, it’s destroying the global economy. Cattle ranchers are a blight.

        • Kae says:

          I don’t agree with the earlier comment of the ranchers are stewarts of the public lands. I have spent 1000’s of hours and miles on horseback out in the Nevada and Utah desert, and that just isn’t the case. I am sure there are some conscientious ranchers out there, but in my opinion, they are the exception. Have you seen what a herd of sheep will do to an area, they eat everything down to the ground and if left on too long, the range may not come back. Yeah, it does prevent fires, but no feed for anything is left. Cattle aren’t much better and they really tear it up. Cattle foul up water holes worse than any animal. I have family that are cattle ranchers and they choose not to use public lands and are very successful.

      • Nancy says:

        Stewards – someone who takes care of something else, like the Earth. Stewart is someone’s name.

        • Patricia Braasch says:

          Thank you!

          • J Keen says:

            First off, public lands, not ranchers lands, so that means they should make concessions for the horses, not the other way around. Second, current research is starting to bear out that the land can take many, many more animals on it as long as you don’t remove all the predators like we are so fond of doing. Those animals need to be kept on the move so they don’t over graze one spot. Understandably a problem for slow fat cows and sheep, but mother nature’s system is so much better than anything we can try and replace it with, that you’d think we’d quit trying and just protect what webhave

      • diane says:

        You don’t know what your talking about…those cattle on public lands don’t feed people here! The meat is sent overseas and the unknowing citizens even pay for the shipping.. The welfare ranchers are called that for a good reason…It costs the taxpayers 500 million dollars a year in the subsidy’s they pay to the welfare ranchers for meat that isn’t even kept here plus shipping… These ranchers that receive the subsidy’s isn’t bc their low income either quite the opposite matter of fact. So don’t sit there and tell us how great the ranchers are…try doing some real research outside of blm propaganda.

        • Beck says:

          I used to board horses and rode next to a huge beef operation . It is unbelievable how badly cattle tear up the ground and as someone else said on here, they obliterate water holes like no other . No doubt the “Stewert” commenter was seeing damage wreaked by cattle. If I’m fact they actually saw anything at all, probably just parroting propaganda without first hand looks or knowledge of what they speak.

      • Donna Taylor says:

        Horses are from N America..cows came from China…Horses Don’t over graze..obviously you never owned horses…they are free roaming and are good as fire protectors and re establishing from what they eat resending what they have eatin… Do your homework…I can tell your not
        Intelligent on this issue…

      • Vicki says:

        BLM livestock leases only account for about 2% of our nation’s beef. The majority of ranchers own private property. And I hate to tell you, sheep are very destructive and so is cattle. Horses will usually always travel the same cow tract (trail) when moving from on place to another. Unshod horses do not tear up the land near as much as a cloven hoofed animal. I actual own property with horses and grew up with cattle, And no, the water holes and grass is not ruined. And horses do not do any more damage to a water holes than any other livestock.

      • Robby says:

        You got be kidding. It’s the unnecessary over production of beef and pigs causing so much harm, methane etc. Stop breeding and using animals like body parts to sell to enrich your compassionateless lives! And if you don’t know, inform yourself about your personal huge contribution to rising greenhouse gases and climate change. Ignorance is no excuse the information is there and the science is real.

    • Vicki Martz says:

      Agree. Especially the issue of welfare ranchers grazing for free, decimating grazing land and pocketing huge profits.

    • Donna Taylor says:

      PZP…is non lethal…zoos use it..

    • Karen says:

      I agree

    • Susan says:

      Absolutely right. Sheep devour more grass than horses. So far we may be making progress.

  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.

      • Vicki Martz says:


      • Debra Odell says:

        These wild horses were here before us. They are native to our country. Soon these majestic animals will be extinct at the rate cattlemen and ranchers are raising livestock for PROFIT! These horses should be protected. That’s why there is BLM land. Not for ranchers to raise their cattle on it, it’s for MANAGEMENT of wild animals that have been removed from pretty much every State except the ones that are listed above.
        No, what people should do is STOP eating BEEF! Let beef go extinct! There 40 cattle to 1 wild horse on BLM land right now all for the ranchers pockets. Sorry, ranchers want to graze their cattle, then put some if that PROFIT you make BACK into the BLM and start being the earth “stewards” for once!
        If everyone stopped eating beef, guess what? Beef would be overstocked and prices would plummet. Then there wouldn’t be a need for more free BLM land because beef is not as popular as it used to be because people earned that Red meat is bad for your heart. The other white meat could be Quinoa since that had enough protein to survive on. No animal is sacrificed when we eat plant life. Which is superb for your heart!

      • Lisa says:

        There’s one in north Texas killpen right now who do we report it to

  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.

      • Dale says:

        But, I read cattle eat much more than a horse does, and drinks much more than a horse does, so, it does not matter if they are taken off the land,….they have eaten so much, they probably HAVE to be taken off, as they ate everything in sight!

    • Diane says:

      I don’t know where your getting your information but you are really out in left field somewhere and have been reading way to much blm propaganda…The numbers your saying are so inaccurate of wild horses left and the blm has been rounding up these mustangs and burros for forty years and stockpiling them which has nothing tov do with controlling their populations and according to the National Academy of Scientists after completing their 2 yr. study and report stated It is Clear ” The Panel of National Academy of Sciences writes that the Status Quo of continuing to removing free range horses and then maintaining them in long term holding facilities, with no foreseeable end in sight, is both economically unsustainable and discordant with public expectations. Addressing the problem immediately with long- term view is probably more affordable and satisfactory answer than to continue to remove animals to long term holding facilities. By removing so many animals, the Scientists say the horses no longer need to compete for food and reproduce at a faster rate on average. The Independent Scientists say BLM makes things much worse…a panel of outside scientists investigated blm’s handling of the wild horses and issued a “Critical Report” in 2013 that said the Bureau’s Current Policies are making the crisis worst and that it spurs remaining wild mustangs to reproduce even faster. They also state the blm’s land capacity levels are not Scientific and that even though the NAS gave the blm suggestions to solutions that are proven working solutions and humane that would end the need any longer of stockpiling they have been ignored and the blm uses no science at all in controlling the populations and continues to use a plan that has been a complete failure and only compounded the problems…that;s bc the blm’s real plan is to keep adding more and more to the numbers being stockpiled bc they know the one thing Congress pays attention to is costs and by increasing the numbers and the cost of feeding and housing keeps rising there will be a better chance of Congress saying yes to be able to start killing healthy mustangs legally and do a mass slaughter of stockpiled horses.. The blm doesn’t care at all about the wild horses they just want them all gone period. As far as the numbers of wild horses left try 40,605 roaming free and 49,768 in holding. There are 50 to 1 of cattle compared to horses and there are 19 million cattle grazing on public lands and if the blm’s ten year plan for rounding up the horses is completed they will have rounded up more wild horses than exist. on the range. The cattle’s meat isn’t even kept here it’s shipped overseas. The welfare ranchers are called that for very good reasons and has nothing to do with being low income. It costs the unknowing taxpayers 500 million dollars a year in subsidy’s to the ranchers for meat not kept here plus the taxpayers even pay for their shipping.

  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.

  11. Sandra says:

    I want to express my gratitude to the amazing people with huge hearts who are doing all they can to protect our wild horses and burros. Some questions here. Cow manure is a carrier of
    E. coli, Horse manure is not. Why are cows being permitted in public land at all for this reason alone? Cow manure should not be used on farm land because it spreads disease. Also, is public land being used in order to meet demands for organic beef? If it is, the public will be outraged to know wild horses are being slaughtered to create organic beef destined for slaughter. “Spotted Cows” replaced the Buffalo because ranchers and railroad industries didn’t like them. What are we really doing now?
    If hiking in Diamond Head in Spanish Fork Utah up to the hot springs, yes, that’s cow manure next to the river and yes that’s a cow you almost bumped into on your way up the trail.

  12. Virginia Franklin says:

    I read the “solution” devised by Anthony Marr. It has a few good points but it will not and should not be implemented. You are never going to kick the welfare ranchers off the BLM land. Your vegan agenda is not embraced by the majority of people and probably will not be in this lifetime. While I agree a plant based diet is great, not all of America agrees. The tradition of the “old west” is just as strong or stronger than the vision of “wild and free” mustangs. But until the science is done to understand the overall impact of having horses on contraceptive drugs with regard to passing the drugs to all the wild animals that feed on the bodies of dead horses, it isn’t the solution. Spay and neuter is a better method and I understand there are groups that oppose the spaying as “cruel”. The horse population is going unchecked and any animal reproducing at the rates of burros and horses is causing a problem, just as cats and dogs do. I agree that the ranchers have an unfair advantage getting the welfare grazing and I agree that the horses have huge iconic value. But the problem is bigger and more complicated than the vegan agenda and kicking all the ranchers off the range. It isn’t going to happen. What does need to happen is contraception that is humane and doesn’t affect all the wild birds, coyotes, and carrion eaters.It is possible to manage with spay and neutering and cycling the already captured animals back out after being rendered infertile and maintain the rangelands for all the wild animals, not just horses. And by the way, the donkeys have been shown to improve and create a synergistic effect with other wild creatures. They are equines but not like horses at all.

  13. Lori Thompson says:

    Just leave them alone for Christ’s sake. My wish of wishes!

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.