Coalition of U.S. House members pen letter to DOI Secretary Bernhardt opposing sterilization of wild horses
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is striking back at the Bureau of Land Management's latest attempt to test a permanent sterilization technique on wild horses.
The group of 30 congressional leaders, including four Republicans, sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt late Friday urging him to "drop" BLM research into a controversial sterilization procedure — called ovariectomy via colpotomy — that involves removing the ovaries from mares. The latest proposal, which could begin as early as August, would involve about 100 mares already rounded up from a federal herd management area in central Oregon.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also asked Bernhardt to "shed light" on why BLM is working "to push forward" with the proposed project after a federal judge last year issued an injunction halting the research. The bureau quickly abandoned the project and committed in February to adopt or sell most of the 845 wild horses it gathered up for the project.
But last month, BLM released a new environmental assessment (EA) analyzing the proposals to test the sterilization technique on mares at the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon. It marks at least the third time BLM has proposed such research, which has been challenged each time by litigation from advocacy groups.
"The BLM is charged with protecting wild horses under the landmark 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. From a welfare perspective, the 'spay' experiment raises serious concerns," the letter said. Among them are the "risks of infection, trauma, hemorrhage, evisceration, and even death," they wrote. BLM did not respond to a request for comment on this story before publication.
But according to the EA, the bureau wants to test the procedure "on at least 100 ungentled, wild horse mares" already rounded up last October as part of the previous attempt to research the sterilization technique. BLM would "contract with an experienced veterinary team" to conduct the "surgical procedure," it said.BLM would return about 28 to 34 of the sterilized mares to the range as part of the project. The U.S. Geological Survey would "evaluate the impacts of spaying" on these animals and on "herd behavior once returned to the range as compared with an untreated herd." Roughly 70 other mares would also be spayed and observed for seven days, then put up for adoption or sale and not returned to the range.
It's the latest effort by the bureau to find safe and effective ways to permanently sterilize mares as herd sizes grow rapidly across the West. But a federal judge blocked a similar proposal last year, and two years earlier BLM dropped a separate research proposal into several sterilization methods shortly after an advocacy group sued.
The congressional leaders led by Blumenauer wrote in the letter that they aren't convinced BLM will take proper precautions to care for the animals.
"It seems that the agency understands the risky nature of the procedure but is nevertheless aiming to quantify precisely how dangerous it is using federally-protected animals," they wrote. "This is especially disconcerting given the BLM's pronouncement that no post-operative antibiotics will be administered and that no veterinary interventions will be undertaken for any recovering horses returned to the range."
At the "absolute minimum," the letter said, if BLM conducts the tests it should include "veterinary and welfare oversight" similar to two previous proposals for sterilization research that included partnering with Oregon State University in 2016, and last year with Colorado State University.
Both universities dropped out before the research could begin, and the lawmakers noted with concern that such partnerships "are no longer a component of the project the BLM is attempting to yet again undertake."
Carlos Godoy Nava, manager of the Packers of Carnes de Fresnillo SA de CV, informed that since 2014 they stopped exporting equine meat to the European market, because there were no regulations guaranteeing the origin of the animal, nor about the use of drugs.
Faced with this, the production of horse meat fell to 65 percent, so they requested the support of federal deputies to legislate rules for the transfer of animals and control of veterinary drugs, which is why it stopped the treaty.
He mentioned that although there are exports to Vietnam, Russia and Japan, what represented the European market was much more significant, which led the company to have a decline and had to lay off about 180 employees, so now They only have 100 workers.
Godoy Nava argued that "what is required to enter the market once again is to identify the traceability of animals, to guarantee from the origin of the animal to the final consumer, which is what worries the European market and the biggest thing to solve it is the control of veterinary medicines so that it is regulated and established a control that is credible and manageable at the national level and that guarantees the health of the products ".
He pointed out that it is not about taking care of only the health of Europeans, but that medicines should be controlled for the benefit of all those who consume meat.
In view of this situation, the federal deputy Eduardo Ron Ramos, who is president of the Livestock Commission, together with legislators Mirna Maldonado Tapia, Edith García and María Luisa Veloz Mayor, visited the facilities of the Fresnillo meat packer in order to establish work tables and take them as a solution through initiatives, to help not only this company, but the entire national meat industry.
Ron Ramos mentioned that the Livestock Commission of the Chamber of Deputies aims to give results to these issues, but emphasized that they can not be immediate, since projects and strategic points will hardly be worked on, that is, they will look for the solution so that they can become initiatives that support entrepreneurs.
He explained that the problems to stop exporting nothing have to do with the quality of the product or companies, if not that between the agreements of the governments were not fulfilled the regulations that established in the market of Europe and those that Mexico has, because They did not agree, so they decided to close the doors to Mexico to export horse meat.
The federal deputy president of the Livestock Commission emphasized that, although they barely investigate the real problems that exist in the export of horse meat, as a legislator has two options: establish initiatives and points of agreement, in addition to the management in the matter, so he asked for patience to this sector.
Source: NTR Zacatecas
While Mexico is unable to export horsemeat to the EU, they continue to export to other countries. Many of the horses slaughtered for human consumption in Mexico come from the United States.
TAKE ACTION to help stop the live-export of American horses intended to be slaughtered >>
A bipartisan group of lawmakers pressured the Agriculture Department today over concerns that the Forest Service could sell dozens of wild horses it's holding at California's Modoc National Forest without first ensuring the purchased animals don't end up in foreign slaughterhouses. Congress has placed restrictions on what the Interior Department and its sub-agencies can do with the West's surplus of wild horses, but not USDA. Now, a group of 64 members of Congress is concerned that the Forest Service could begin the sale of as many as 165 wild horses without restrictions as early as this month.
"We are deeply troubled by this proposal as it represents a severe abdication of the government's responsibility to manage these federally-protected horses humanely," they wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen today.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) organized the letter-writing campaign. Lawmakers signing the letter include House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).
"The Forest Service's proposal would put wild horses at risk of being killed for food, and goes against California's existing law prohibiting the sale or transfer of horses for human consumption," the letter says.
It's not clear if the Forest Service intends to sell any of the wild horses rounded up and removed from the national forest last fall. A spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. About 250 horses that were rounded up last fall were transferred to newly built corrals — called the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals — on the Modoc site. The Forest Service has said it is considering selling horses that it can't adopt out, and doing so without restrictions on what the buyer is allowed to do with the horses.
These plans were revealed in court filings by Justice Department attorneys defending the Forest Service against a federal lawsuit by advocacy groups challenging last fall's roundup of wild horses and burros.DOJ attorneys argued in one filing, dated Dec. 20, 2018, that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 "expressly allows" the agency to sell unadopted animals without limitation.
For all practical purposes, that means "the purchaser does not have to certify the uses of the horses," according to the motion opposing a request by animal rights groups that the court issue an injunction against the sale of any of the rounded-up horses. A hearing on that preliminary injunction request before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is set for this week.
DOJ says in the motion that the Forest Service "would not knowingly sell a horse that goes to slaughter for human consumption." But if the horses cannot be adopted, it says, the service may have to resort to the sale without restrictions. Congress for years has added provisions to Interior Department appropriations bills that forbid the Bureau of Land Management from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros, and limit its ability to sell animals without restrictions on their future use. But the appropriations language covers only Interior, and thus BLM; the Forest Service operates under the Department of Agriculture.Regardless, the letter signed by the 64 lawmakers says that the appropriations language makes the intent of Congress "abundantly clear."
"To our knowledge, the Forest Service has never attempted to sell wild horses under its authority without restrictions on slaughter," the letter says. "Rather, the agency has abided by the Interior appropriations language and Congress's clear position regarding the humane and appropriate management of federally-protected wild horses."
Source: E&E News by Scott Streater
Divisions over federal policy on wild horses and burros have come into sharp focus in the last two weeks after the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced a collaboration with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Return To Freedom, and pro-horse slaughter groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation to convince the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to add $50 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s budget for management of the equids. Specifically, the groups have called for the round-up of 15,000 – 20,000 horses and burros annually for as many as ten years and for placement of these horses in government-funded holding facilities, perhaps in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Utah (on top of the 50,000 horses already in holding facilities). They’ve called for a step-up of “growth suppression programs,” specifically targeting the individual horses and burros remaining after gathers in order to make sterilization or fertility control more practical.
Every reputable animal protection group – including all animal groups on both sides of this debate – opposes the slaughter of wild horses, and also pushed for federal legislation to stop the slaughter of any domesticated or wild horses or burros. And I have no doubt that the program staffers at the HSUS and the ASPCA advocating for this plan have a deep concern for horses and burros. They deserve our respect for their passion for animals. In this case, however, I think they’ve made the wrong judgment and negotiated a bad deal that puts horses and burros at risk. And the absence of a perfect plan in the alternative doesn’t make their plan any more acceptable
The best and most rationale step forward is to use this year’s appropriations cycle to require BLM expand its contraception programs and fund that expansion. If BLM demonstrates an ability to apply the fertility control strategy in a far larger number of Herd Management Areas, then it’s time to talk about a broader plan for managing horses and burros given the presence of a more trusted and reliable government agency.
For now, though, the wild horse and burro community is right to balk at a plan to gather and remove 45,000 – 60,000 wild horses and burros in the next three years. Advocates should speak up and call their federal lawmakers (202-225-3121), urging them to oppose this dangerous plan and focus funding on the contraception as the centerpiece of any future, more comprehensive management plan.
Legislation authored by California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) to protect California’s wild and domestic horses from slaughter is successfully moving forward.
Assembly Bill 128 received the approval of the Assembly’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee by a vote of 10 to 1, and now advances to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Californians have made it clear that they oppose the slaughter of horses yet horses are still being targeted for slaughter for human consumption. It is wrong and not how these animals should be treated,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “I am pleased this bill is moving forward and we are one step closer to strengthening our laws aimed at protecting California’s wild and domestic horses from slaughter.”
AB 128 protects wild and domestic horses from slaughter by:
In October, Assemblymember Gloria and 22 of his colleagues joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to oppose the federal government’s inhumane acts. CLICK HERE to read full letter.
AB 128 is expected to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.
Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) reintroduced The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act , S.1007, to protect horses from the abusive practice known as “soring,” in which show horse trainers intentionally apply substances or devices to horses’ limbs to make each step painful and force an exaggerated high-stepping gait rewarded in show rings.
Although federal law currently prohibits soring, a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General (IG) has found that some horse trainers often go to great lengths to continue this inhumane practice.
“Horses have been a part of our Commonwealth’s history and culture since the settling of Jamestown, and like all animals, they deserve to be treated with care and compassion,” said Sen. Warner. “The PAST Act will further protect these animals from the cruel practice of inflicting deliberate pain and suffering for show purposes.”
“I support the humane treatment of all animals and the responsible training of horses,” said Sen. Crapo. “I remain committed to ending the cruel practice of soring, and will continue to promote enforcement of current animal welfare laws.”
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act would:
In 2017, the USDA Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) moved to strengthen certain aspects of the Horse Protection Act by incorporating some of the major tenets of the PAST Act. However, the rule was not finalized before the end of the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration has halted the process. The PAST Act would codify these changes into law.
Joining Warner and Crapo in the introduction of The PAST Act, S.1007, are U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
President Trump is once again asking Congress to remove restrictions forbidding the Bureau of Land Management from using “the full suite of tools” to manage growing wild horse and burro herds.
That presumably includes the use of euthanasia in specific instances when horses are too old or sick or cannot be adopted or sold, according to BLM’s recently released budget justification document detailing BLM’s $1.2 billion fiscal 2020 budget request.
The budget justification does not specifically state that BLM wants to use euthanasia. Nor does it directly mention unrestricted sale of wild horses and burros.
But the stipulation in the document directly asks “that appropriations language restricting BLM from using all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 be eliminated so that the full suite of tools originally authorized by Congress will be available to [BLM] to manage growing wild horse and burro herds.”
That section refers to specific language in appropriations bills covering the Interior Department that forbids BLM from using euthanasia on healthy horses and burros and limits its ability to sell animals without limitations on their future use. The provision on limiting sales of animals is designed to ensure horses are not sold to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
President Trump has included similar requests in the last two fiscal budget cycles; Congress, even with Republicans controlling the House and Senate the first two years of the Trump administration, has ignored the requests.
Indeed, the Interior-EPA fiscal 2019 funding package approved in February includes language forbidding “the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors”.
The appropriations request comes as BLM struggles to manage more than 82,000 wild horses and burros across roughly 27 million acres of federal herd management areas — about 55,000 more animals than the appropriate management level, which is the maximum number of horses and burros that regulators believe the rangeland can handle without causing damage to vegetation, soil and other resources.
BLM, according to the budget justification, spends 61 percent of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget paying to house and care for the nearly 50,000 animals it has rounded up from federal rangelands.
Meanwhile, the budget justification notes that Trump wants to cut BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program funding to $75.7 million, from $80.5 million in 2019 enacted levels.
BLM is making a concerted effort to increase adoptions.
The fiscal 2020 budget justification includes a $40,000 increase for BLM adoption programs. That includes a new adoption incentive program in which the bureau is offering $1,000 to anyone who will adopt one of the thousands of wild horses and burros rounded up from federal rangelands.
The bureau will also continue research into a permanent fertilization control measure, including “sterilization methods and the use of contraceptives and the spaying and neutering of animals before returning them to the range,” according to the budget justification.
BLM has abandoned such efforts after legal challenges from wild horse and animal rights groups.
“The BLM will continue working with the scientific community to better refine its population growth suppression methods and overall herd management techniques, as well as pursuing adoptions and sales, including incentivizing adoptions, and seeking permanent authority to transfer animals to local, State, and other Federal agencies for use as work animals,” it says.
Source: E&E News
Horse racing is plagued by drug use and a poor reputation, and casual fans are turning away.
The Horseracing Integrity Act could rescue a sport that seems unwilling to save itself.
Twenty-two horses died at the famed Santa Anita racetrack in southern California before its owners halted the current racing season to determine what had caused so many fatal injuries within just a 10-week period.
An alarmed California Horse Racing Board last week imposed strict new safety and medication rules before allowing racing to resume. The deaths are also bringing new attention to the Horseracing Integrity Act, federal legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, the Democrat from Amsterdam, and U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican.
The bill proposes to put drug rule making, testing and enforcement in the hands of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the private, nonprofit government body that administers the Olympic anti-doping program. It would create a national, uniform standard for drugs and medication in horse racing.
Notably, the legislation is backed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which includes racing organizations, racetracks, owner and breeder associations, and animal-welfare groups.
They all understand that the changes could help restore faith in a sport with a less-than-stellar reputation — one that, over decades, has experienced a dramatic decline in popularity. It's not hyperbolic to suggest Mr. Tonko's bill might save a sport that seems unwilling to save itself.
Often, doing the right thing butts up against economic realities. This, thankfully, is a case in which what's right is also the smart financial choice.
Nevertheless, the horse racing industry has been slow to recognize that questions about the treatment of its equine athletes present a threat to its very survival. With so many other entertainment options available, casual fans, especially, will turn away if they believe stars of the show are being mistreated.
Meanwhile, as sports gambling continues to expand, bettors also have more options. They may choose to bet on other sports if they believe widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs is tainting the integrity of races.
While experts disagree over what caused so many deaths so quickly in Santa Anita, the link between the overuse of drugs and fatal equine injuries is clear.
In some cases, drugs push the animals past natural limits and endurance. They also falsely prop up thoroughbred bloodlines that would otherwise expire, over time producing horses that are ill-prepared for the rigors of the sport.
The overwhelming majority of trainers and owners want to do what's best for their horses, and many understand that a more holistic approach to the sport could generate stronger horses. They also want to compete on a level field.
But the current state-by-state patchwork of laws and regulations makes it more difficult to do both. The Horseracing Integrity Act would change that, for the benefit of the sport, and its stars.
Source: Times Union
Today U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Jan Schakowsky reintroduced The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R.961, to permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The SAFE Act would also prohibit the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses to be sold overseas.
“The slaughter of horses for consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for the same purpose.”
“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” Schakowsky said. “The SAFE Act would prohibit any horse slaughter plant from opening; and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption. I am proud to reintroduce this bill and work with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”
Although the practice is currently illegal in the United States, the ban is temporary and subject to annual congressional review. Last year, Buchanan was instrumental in extending the temporary prohibition which was signed into law by President Trump. No federal law exists to prohibit the transport of horses across American borders for slaughter in Canada or Mexico.
More than 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those horses are butchered and then transported overseas for consumption in Japan, Italy and other countries. More than 90 percent of these horses were healthy and in good condition.
Today Co-Chairs of the Congressional Veterinary Medicine Caucus, Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05) and Congressman Ted S. Yoho (R-FL-03), introduced the U.S. Senator Joseph D. Tydings Memorial PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act to amend the Horse Protection Act of 1970, ending the abusive practice known as horse soring. This is the third consecutive Congress that Reps. Schrader and Yoho, veterinarians for more than 30 years and two of only three veterinarians currently in Congress, have introduced the PAST Act.
Soring is the practice of intentionally injuring the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses to exaggerate the leg motion of these high gaited horses. Even though it’s been illegal for over 50 years, it’s still widely practiced.
“Horse soring still runs rampant even though laws have been on the books for decades banning this cruel practice,” said Rep. Schrader. “We gave them a chance to self-police but the practice continued. Our bill will strengthen and improve current regulations by improving USDA enforcement, increasing civil and criminal penalties, and banning incentives to sore horses. It’s time for Congress to act and put an end to this abusive practice.”
“I am honored to join my fellow veterinarian, Rep. Kurt Schrader and various organizations who support the end of Horse Soring. As a veterinarian and lover of animals, we must continue to keep the pressure on a select group of bad actors in the Walking Horse industry. They must comply with existing law and stop this illegal practice for good,” said Rep. Yoho.
The bill is named in honor of Senator Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland who served in the Senate from 1965-1971. Sen. Tydings sponsored the Horse Protection Act of 1970 and devoted his life working to end the practice of soring. Last Congress, the bill received the support of 290 bipartisan cosponsors. The legislation is also supported by more than 280 organizations, associations and groups, including both veterinary advocates and horse industry professionals, supporting putting an end to this unnecessary and inhumane practice.
HORSES FOR LIFE