Republican Congressman Chris Stewart brought together ranchers, animal-protection advocates and others on Wednesday to brainstorm solutions for protecting wild horses.
Evocative symbols of the American West, wild horses have also become a thorny national political issue that's often left ranchers and animal-protection advocates at odds.
Congress budgeted more than $80 million for the wild horse program last year, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management overspent that by more than $2 million. Stewart has introduced an amendment to a recently passed House spending bill that gives the BLM more authority and a $15 million funding increase for managing horse populations. The U.S. Senate also included provisions in its version of the Interior Department spending bill that address wild horses.
But the opposing sides agree money alone is not the answer.
"Everyone agrees the problem is untenable the way it is," said Stewart after the closed-door meeting ended Wednesday. "There's wide agreement—I would say 90 percent agreement—on what it's going to take to fix it.
That includes capturing and removing from public land about 90,000 horses so they won't compete with livestock and wildlife for food and water.
Stewart said the solution also means settling on an effective sterilization program that would allow the BLM to remove the ovaries of wild mares. Sterilization would prevent herds remaining on the range from growing fast. The target is to hold herd numbers steady at roughly 27,000 horses.
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, brought together groups that are typically at odds for a discussion of solutions for the nation’s wild horse program.
Among the groups that attended were:
They asked Stewart to continue the talks.
Nancy Perry, a lobbyist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the national program for wild horses is at a crossroads.
"That's causing everyone to come together, put aside our differences and ask, 'What can we do together on this issue?'" Perry, who also attended the roundtable, said.
Beaver County Commissioner Tammy Pearson, who is also a rancher, conceded that solving the wild horse problem will take collaboration and time.
"We've had years and years that we've been saying, and begging and pleading to get this done," said Pearson. "And the problems have been that BLM has been restricted in what they can do."
Stewart, who calls himself a horse lover, said no one wants to see the horses, the land and rural Utah communities suffering. In a previous version of his amendment, Stewart gave the BLM authority to euthanize healthy horses in government corrals. But that's no longer part of his proposal.
"This coalition will stay together because we truly love these animals," said Stewart, adding that some wild horses in southern Utah are starving to death. "Most people think that's not a great outcome for them."
The ban on spending taxpayer dollars to inspect Horse Slaughter will remain the law through the end of the fiscal year; September 30, 2015. With President Obama signing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, the United States will continue to forbid the domestic slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The language specifically bans the use of federal funding for inspections at such facilities, maintaining the de facto ban on domestic horse slaughter and saving taxpayer dollars, and thwarts efforts in at least three states to start killing horses on U.S. soil for export to foreign nations.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said: “Time and again, the North American horse slaughter industry has proved itself to be reckless when it comes to matters of food safety and animal welfare. Americans do not eat horses, nor do they want them suffering in long-distance transport and in inhumane slaughter plants so they can end up on a foreign dinner plate.”
Earlier this month, the European Commission decided to suspend horsemeat imports from Mexico due to food safety concerns. U.S. horses account for 87 percent of the horses slaughtered in Mexico for export to the EU and are regularly administered drugs and other substances over the course of their lives that are potentially toxic to humans. A recent audit conducted by the EU also noted issues with inhumane treatment of American horses in holding pens on U.S. soil and during transport to slaughter.
The omnibus spending bill included strong fund levels for enforcement of animal welfare and anti-wildlife trafficking programs, as well as helpful provisions to encourage more humane management of wild horses on public lands, development of alternatives to animal testing, and updated regulations on treatment of captive marine mammals. However, it also contained adverse provisions to benefit the gun lobby (restrictions on regulating the lead content of ammunition) and the farm lobby (restrictions on regulating greenhouse gas emissions from CAFOs and overseeing the beef check-off program).
The European Commission has implemented a conditional ban of the import of horsemeat from Mexico following a series of audits by the Food and Veterinary Office.
The audits consistently identified serious problems with the lack of traceability of horses slaughtered for EU export with origins in the United States and Mexico, particularly regarding veterinary medical treatment records. The most recent audit published on 4th December is a damning indictment of the horse slaughter industry and the Mexican authorities’ failure to rectify previously identified problems.
Although the ban has been introduced due to food safety concerns, animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe says the decision could potentially have a positive animal welfare impact in reducing the number of horses suffering in the Mexican slaughter pipeline. Dr. Joanna Swabe, HSI’s European Union executive director, welcomed the decision:
“Banning horsemeat imports from Mexico is long overdue. For years Humane Society International has repeatedly sounded the alarm about horsemeat entering the food chain that does not fully meet EU safety standards. As well as safeguarding EU consumer safety, closing our borders to horsemeat from these countries is important for animal welfare, too. Horse slaughter, regardless of which country it is in, is fraught with inherent cruelty.”
Currently 87 percent of the eligible horses slaughtered in Mexico for meat export to the EU originate from the U.S.; horses are not bred to be eaten in either the U.S. or Mexico. Additionally, the use of veterinary drugs such as phenylbutazone, banned for use in food animals, is widespread; mandatory lifetime medical record-keeping is non-existent in both countries.
As confirmed by the latest audit, the FVO has consistently found questionable the reliability and veracity of vendor statements about U.S. and Mexican horses’ treatment records, meaning such meat entering the EU could contain banned veterinary drugs. The FVO also confirmed HSI’s particular concerns regarding the very poor welfare conditions at export facilities located in the U.S., during transport from the U.S. to Mexico and at the slaughterhouses.
HSI acknowledges that the Commission is at last taking rigorous steps to protect EU consumer safety, but would like to see a moratorium covering Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay where similar traceability problems with horsemeat exports persist.
Source: Humane Society International
HSI’s EU Executive Director Dr. Joanna Swabe is available for interview and comment by contacting:
Raul Arce-Contreras, firstname.lastname@example.org +1 301.721.6440
The Bureau of Land Management will collect burros in the Pahrump Valley community near the Johnnie Herd Management Area. The food/water bait gather corrals could be in place for several days to several months, depending on the burros’ movements through the area.
Goal of Gather
Collect, remove and adopt up to 40 wild burros that are outside of the Johnnie Herd Management Area. These burros pose safety hazards along State Route 160, side roads in the Pahrump Valley, and have caused private property damage in the valley.
Details of the Gather
The capture method will be temporary bait gather corrals consisting of a series of corral panels, hay and water and will take place on private land where wild burros have been causing property damage. The gather is being accomplished through a volunteer agreement with the private land owners.
Due to the lack of holding space for wild horses and burros, the Pahrump Field Office will facilitate private, local adoptions of as many burros as possible and look at additional adoptions through placement into the Humane Society for the United States Platero Project burro gentling and training program. Individuals interested in adopting these burros must complete an adoption application and meet the BLM requirements to adopt. Click Here to learn more about BLM's adoption program.
The burros are being gathered because they pose a safety hazard along State Route 160, side roads in the Pahrump Valley, and have caused private property damage in the Valley. Six individuals have contacted BLM directly regarding the wild burro issues in the Pahrump Valley in the last month.
Since October of 2010, at least five burros in the Johnnie Herd Management Area were killed or had to be euthanized due to vehicle collisions. There have been no reported human injuries or fatalities related to these accidents at this time. “These particular burros are habituated to being in the Pahrump Valley and they have stopped foraging and moving throughout the Johnnie Herd Management Area,” said Krystal Johnson, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist. “They have lost their normal wild characteristics and have become public safety hazards and are causing issues on private land.”
The BLM is planning to collect approximately 30-40 burros from the Pahrump Valley area, utilizing temporary bait gather corrals consisting of a series of corral panels, hay and water and will take place on private land where wild burros have been causing property damage. The burros will be available for adoption after gather operations end. The timing of this collection is important, as burro-vehicle accidents and private land owner issues usually increase during the fall as the weather begins cooling off.
The public is reminded that feeding wild horses and burros is dangerous as wild animals can be unpredictable. Feeding also affects the animals’ behavior and can be hazardous to their overall health and safety. The Pahrump Field Office will facilitate private, local adoptions of as many burros as possible and look at additional adoptions through placement into the Humane Society for the United States Platero Project burro gentling and training program. Individuals interested in adopting these burros must complete an adoption application and meet the BLM requirements to adopt.
Source: BLM News Release
A young stallion named Gus just might be the key to saving the wild horses that roam the beaches of Corolla. The genetically-diverse wild stallion from Cedar Island, some 250 miles away, was released into the Corolla herd on Thursday.
“He’s the offspring of some Shackelford horses who are the same breed as ours – Colonial Spanish Mustangs. They have far more maternal lines than we do. We are down to one maternal line. Our gene pool is very shallow. We are having birth defects, so Gus is historic,” explained Corolla Wild Horse Fund Executive Director Karen McCalpin.
The process to get Gus into the herd has taken years and required approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Earlier this year, McCalpin pulled DNA samples by dart gun from two wild stallions living on Cedar Island.
It was then analyzed by Dr. Gus Cothran of Texas A&M University who was able to confirm that the horses were Colonial Spanish Mustangs.
The Corolla Wild Horse Fund decided to name the stallion Gus in Dr. Cothran’s honor.
After Gus tested negative for Equine Infectious Anemia, staff from the CWHF made the trip to Cedar Island to transport Gus to the north beach in Corolla.
The herd on Cedar Island has been owned and cared for by Woody and Nena Hancock.
“Gus is the first step in turning that headed for extinction situation around. Without the introduction of new genes into the Corolla herd – they would cease to exist. We are already at a genetic bottleneck where we are having consistent birth defects in foals,” McCalpin told NewsChannel 3′s Todd Corillo on Monday.
“Obviously we are hoping Gus finds some girlfriends and that offspring that he would produce would be the first genetically-diverse offspring here in centuries. We hope if not next year, the year after we’re going to see a foal that we know is the beginning of turning around the path to extinction for these horses,” she continued.
As she watched Gus idly graze in his new Corolla home on an abnormally warm late-November day, McCalpin couldn’t help but be excited.
“Seeing him is probably bigger than winning the lottery for me. People talk about a bucket list and that was certainly on my bucket list. It’s just amazing to me that we were able to do this.”
McCalpin hopes to be able to return to Cedar Island in the spring to DNA test mares that could be released in Corolla as well.
Source: WTKR by Todd Corillo
The mission of The Corolla Wild Horse Fund is to protect, conserve, and responsibly manage the herd of wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs roaming freely on the northernmost North Carolina’s Currituck Outer Banks. The organization employs a darted immunocontraception program using the FDA approved substance PZP (porcine zona pelucida). It is conducted under the auspices of the Humane Society of the United States and the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana.
If you would like to help the efforts to return the Corolla herd to genetic health, please donate. You can go to their website at www.corollawildhorses.org or by mail: CWHF P.O. Box 361 Corolla, NC 27927.
USDA Reports Inspectors Issued Nearly Twice as Many Horse Soring Violations at this Year’s Walking Horse Show
Federal and local inspectors issued nearly twice as many soring violations at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration as in the 2013 show, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released this week.
A group of largely USDA monitors found 219 violations of the Horse Protection Act during the 11-day competition in Shelbyville. Those figures come after years when fewer violations — including last year’s low of 110 — were identified at the championship event.
The jump in violations comes as the Tennessee Walking Horse industry continues to writhe over accusations of widespread soring, which happens when a horse’s legs are hurt intentionally to exaggerate the high gait for which the breed is known. While industry reformers call for a federal law they say would eliminate the major causes of abuse, others say more objective testing would weed out the industry’s worst trainers and owners.
The report said those apparent signs of soring disqualified 166 competitors during the event — 15.4 percent of all of the horses inspected. [Click Here to read full USDA report]
The vast majority of the violations and disqualifications developed from horses that had signs of a banned substance on them or through the industry’s scar rule, which prohibits horses with past signs of soring from being shown.
The figures proved that federal officials were willing to enforce Horse Protection Act regulations at a higher rate than others designated to inspect, said Keith Dane, vice president for equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.
More than 50 percent of the 389 horses inspected at the Celebration by USDA officials showed signs of soring, the federal report said.
“All these years the industry has said they’ve solved the problem, yet soring is still rampant,” Dane said.
Celebration CEO Mike Inman questioned the difference shown from this year’s figures, saying that federal officials enforced the scar rule differently than in years past. He said that using fewer subjective ways to monitor a horse would bring more consistent inspection results.
“We’ve had the same horses and the same inspectors for years,” Inman said. “The only thing that’s changed is the interpretation.”
Officials with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said no inspection procedures were altered during the Celebration, department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said.
Instead, she said, inspectors were using more advanced technology to identify sored horses and penalize their trainers. This year, thermal imaging was used to better recognize abnormal temperatures that can show signs of abuse.
“Soring practices are always evolving and require APHIS to incorporate state of the art technology to capture soring techniques that may not be visible to the naked eye,” Espinosa said in an email.
She did not respond to additional questions about whether the technology used was tied to this year’s rise in violations.
Call for legislation
Because of the technology present, Dane slammed the calls for more objective testing by Celebration officials.
“They ask for science, and when they don’t like the results, they object,” Dane said. He cited the number of violations in repeating his call for Congress to approve the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act, which would ban the chains and special pads tied to the most competitive levels of the industry.
Inman supported alternative legislation that he said would strengthen current laws and provide more objective ways to evaluate a horse and eliminate the field’s worst abusers.
“The PAST Act seeks to eliminate soring by eliminating the breed,” Inman said.
Only one of the USDA violations was issued against a flatshod horse, a performance category that doesn’t use padded shoes or other devices. Because multiple violations could be issued to a horse, the number of violations could differ from the number of disqualifications, the report said.
Source: The Tennessean by Brian Wilson Reach Brian Wilson at 615-726-5970 and on Twitter @brianwilson17
HELP PROTECT HORSES FROM THE CRUELTY OF SORING!
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S. 1406 / H.R. 1518) will amend the Horse Protection Act to end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, ban the use of devices implicated in the practice of soring, strengthen penalties, and make other reforms needed to finally end this torture. Please contact your U.S. representative and ask them to cosponsor the PAST Act!
Burros are among my favorite of the animals residing at our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, with their long ears and friendly stares. We have a couple hundred of rescued burros there, and visitors seem to have a special fascination with them, too. As with all of the animals at the ranch, they've landed there because of some tale of woe - in most instances, because the burros have gotten a raw deal from the federal government, which manages, or mismanages, their populations on the vast reaches of public lands in the West.
Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, is mandated to maintain populations of wild horses and burros in the 11 western states where they live. There are only about 40,000 wild horses and only 8,000 burros, and three quarters of the horses are in just two states - Nevada and Wyoming. The remaining states have relatively small populations, typically with 3,000 or fewer animals. There are millions of cattle and sheep on those federal lands, yet ranchers complain of too many wild equids.
The government has been rounding up and removing horses and burros, ostensibly to control these wild populations and minimize their ecological impact. In the process, the feds have been building a captive equine population now in the tens of thousands, at short-term and long-term holding facilities. Just last week, the BLM released new information that its personnel and contractors would round up nearly 2,400 more wild horses and burros this year. The cost of the round ups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.
For years, we have pressed the Bureau of Land Management, which runs the program, to focus instead on fertility programs to manage populations - a solution that the National Academy of Sciences also recommended in a report commissioned by the BLM. The BLM has been slow to implement the recommendations of the NAS.
Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals. While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of WFHBA, which requires that the BLM's first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.
We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide. Through Humane Society International (HSI) and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program (HSVMA) affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries. But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM - a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation's heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.
We do work with BLM, through our Platero Project, to adopt out burros to suitable owners. So far this year we have placed 190 burros and we remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, the solution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States
TAKE ACTION >>> Guatemala has burros of its own and does not need shipments of burros from the United States. Contact BLM now to keep our nation's wild burros on American soil.
Congress' latest budget bill blocks the resumption of horse slaughter in the U.S. by cutting funding for inspections of the process. The prohibition on spending by the Department of Agriculture is included in the $1.1 trillion budget bill that Congress sent to President Obama on Thursday, January 16, 2014.
Animal protection groups applauded the vote.
"Americans care for horses, we ride horses, and we even put them to work. But we don't eat horses in the United States. And we shouldn't be gathering them up and slaughtering them for people to eat in far-off places," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, one of a number of groups involved in litigation that has blocked proposed horse slaughterhouses from opening in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa.
The last domestic horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, a year after Congress first cut funding for the inspections in an attempt to shutter the industry.
Funding was restored in 2011, and Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, N.M., has been fighting since to convert its small cattle operation to horse slaughter. Last year, Valley and plants in Iowa and Missouri received federal permits to open, but the efforts have been blocked by a series of court orders.
Valley's efforts ignited an emotional, national debate over whether horses are companion animals or livestock, and sparked divisions between rescue groups, Indian tribes and politicians over the most humane way to deal with neglected and abandoned horses.
Proponents argue it is better to slaughter unwanted horses domestically than have them shipped thousands of miles to Canada or less humane facilities in Mexico.
"The message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better, and this abhorrent industry will not be tolerated," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations.
Despite the growing government action to keep horse slaughter from resuming, an attorney for Valley and Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., said Thursday his group will continue to fight to produce horse meat.
Blair Dunn said the companies would be looking at filing a claim that the funding ban violates provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Source: AP by Jeri Clausing
European Parliament urges Commission to act on food safety audits
STRASBOURG—HSI has renewed calls for the European Union to issue a moratorium on the import and sale of North American horsemeat following the adoption of a strong and wide-ranging European Parliament report entitled, "The food crisis, fraud in the food chain and the control thereof."
The Parliament’s own-initiative report comes in the wake of last year’s horsemeat scandal that shook EU consumer trust in the food system. Amongst other things, MEPs call for the Commission to follow up more vigorously on FVO reports and recommendations.
Joanna Swabe, HSI’s EU Director, said:
“During the past three years, Humane Society International has repeatedly raised concerns that the Commission has turned a blind eye to a series of FVO audits in Canada and Mexico. The FVO found that safety measures in both countries to meet EU horsemeat import requirements are fundamentally flawed. It has unequivocally stated that it is impossible to verify the reliability and veracity of veterinary treatment history statements for US origin horses.
Nevertheless this horsemeat continues to be placed on the EU market to this day. It beggars belief that the Commission has consistently ignored the findings of its own veterinary inspectorate, and we are pleased to see the Parliament taking the Commission to task. We urge the Commission to act now and exclude from the EU food chain horsemeat from North America or any other country that does not meet EU import requirements.”
The Parliamentary report urges both the “Commission and Member States to act on the findings of FVO audits with regard to fraudulent medical treatment records of animals destined for slaughter for export to the EU, and to exclude meat and other animal products from third countries, which cannot be guaranteed to be compliant with EU food safety requirements from being placed on the EU market”.
Source: Humane Society International
Media Contact: Wendy Higgins, HSI/UK: +44 (0)7989 972 423, email@example.com
The EU is the biggest export market for horsemeat from Canada and Mexico. According to official EU statistics, 14,303,600 kg of horsemeat valued at €43,469,577 was exported from these countries to the EU in 2011 alone.
Statistical data on EU27 imports of meat of horses, asses, mules or hinnies, chilled or frozen (020500) from Canada and Mexico extracted from the Eurostat database, EU27 Trade Since 1995 By HS6. Accessed 13th August 2012. Read our detailed overview of the extent of the EU horsemeat trade. [PDF]
The Humane Society of the United States recognizes former New Mexico governor for work to block horse slaughter
Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor, U.S. Energy Secretary and Ambassador to the United Nations, has been chosen as the 2013 Humane Horseman of the Year by The Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS recognized Richardson for his leadership in working to block horse slaughter from resuming on U.S. soil and his efforts to protect New Mexico’s wild mustang and burro population. Each year, The HSUS offers the award to an individual who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to protect America’s equines
Richardson said: “I am truly honored to be recognized by our country’s leading animal advocacy organization and by those who are on the front lines of animal protection every day. My foundation and I are committed to continuing the fight to not only stop horse slaughterhouses from reopening, but to ban horse slaughter outright in the U.S, as well as finding humane solutions to manage our nation’s wild and unwanted horse population.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, said: “Governor Richardson makes an impact when he gets involved in negotiations or public policy issues, and horses are lucky he’s used his influence to protect them from people who want to kill healthy animals for profit. Since signing a bill to outlaw cockfighting in his home state, he’s amassed a remarkable record on animal welfare issues, and in 2013 he helped prevent the re-establishing of horse slaughter plants in the United States. He understands that this industry is an inhumane, predatory one, and its work is at odds with the values of the American public.”
Along with actor and director Robert Redford, Richardson formed the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, which made its first action to join the federal lawsuit initiated by The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue to block the opening of domestic horse slaughter plants. Additionally, Richardson successfully encouraged Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly to abandon his pro-slaughter stance and see the value in managing horse populations with long-term humane solutions.
Richardson’s foundation also focuses on the preservation and protection of New Mexico’s wild mustang and burro population while collaborating with other organizations to raise public awareness of the plight of horses. Richardson has also been active on other animal welfare issues, signing legislation as governor to make New Mexico the 49th state to outlaw cockfighting and advocating that the National Institutes of Health end invasive experiments on chimps and commit to sending them to sanctuaries.
Source: The Humane Society of the United States