The conditions for breeding and slaughtering horses in Uruguay, Argentina and Canada, from which a large part of the horse meat marketed in supermarkets in Europe, are denounced Wednesday in videos broadcast by German, Swiss NGOs and French.
Agonizing horses, foals dead from cold on the ground at a Bouvry-Export company center near Calgary, "the biggest horse slaughterhouse in Canada", are shown in a video relayed in France by the Welfarm Association of protection of farm animals, which castigates in a statement "the true face of horse meat".
The images filmed in January and February 2019, showing animals trembling, sick, lying on frozen ground, were filmed by the Swiss associations Tierschutzbund Zurich and German Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF).
In Uruguay and Argentina, the images show lean animals, or parked in thousands without care in front of slaughterhouses.
The Americas is the world's leading producer of equine meat. Of the approximately 4.8 million equines slaughtered worldwide in 2012, 41% were in North America, 11% in South America, 11% in Central America and only 8% in Europe (24% in Asia, 2% in Oceania and 3% in Africa), according to FAO statistics.
In France, where 10,200 equines were slaughtered in 2017, or 2800 tons carcass equivalent, the consumption of horse meat is very marginal. It represents only 0.2% of the quantities of meat that are bought by households in 2018, according to the statistics of the interprofessional meat Interbev.
Nevertheless, according to Welfarm, in 2018 France imported more than 4,300 tons of horse meat from the three countries mentioned in the NGO survey (Argentina, Uruguay, Canada), and 77% of the horse meat sold in hypermarkets came from that country.
Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Bouvry-Export said his company was "strictly controlled by the Canadian health inspection agency."
"Everyone can come to see for themselves," said the spokesperson on condition of anonymity, saying that "activism is out of control at the moment, that's all." that I can say.
On Wednesday morning, the French horse meat import companies such as SNVC (Normandy meat and brokerage company) that imports meat from Uruguay, or Equus, which imports directly from Bouvry-Export in Canada, were unreachable.
New investigations from Winter 2019 show that cruel conditions remain unchanged, at US auctions and in Canadian feedlots, as well as during transport and at the Bouvry slaughterhouse in Alberta.
Every year, tens of thousands of horses from USA are live-exported to Canada and Mexico for the sole purpose of being slaughtered for human consumption. If passed into federal law, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would prohibit slaughtering American equines on U.S. soil or abroad. Help pass the SAFE Act by contacting your member of Congress >>
A majority of Canadians say they have a problem with the slaughter of Canadian horses for human consumption and are uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with the export of horse meat from Canada for human consumption. Over two thirds of Canadians say they would most support stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continue.
The poll was conducted by Nanos Research for the Parliamentary Group, June 2019
A majority of Canadians have a problem with the slaughter of Canadian horses for
Nearly seven in ten Canadians say they would most support stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continue the policy – Asked which path they would support most for Canada, a majority of Canadians (69%) say they would support Canada stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continuing it, while just under two in ten (17%) say they would support Canada continuing the policy of slaughtering horses for human consumption. Fourteen per cent are unsure. Residents of Ontario (74%), the Atlantic region (73%) and British Columbia (72%) were more likely to say they would support Canada stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continuing to allow it, while Quebec residents (62%) were less likely to say so. Canadians that say they would consider voting for the NDP were more likely to say they would support Canada stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption (75%) than those who said they would not consider voting for the NDP (64%).
Just over two thirds of Canadians say they are uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable with the export of horse meat from Canada for human consumption
Just over two in three Canadians say they are uncomfortable (51%) or somewhat uncomfortable (17%) with the export of horse meat from Canada for human consumption, while just under one in four say they are comfortable (11%) or somewhat comfortable (12%) with this. Nine per cent are unsure. Women were more likely to say they feel uncomfortable (65%) with the export of horse meat from Canada for human consumption compared to men (36%). Residents of the Atlantic region (59%) were more likely to report being uncomfortable while residents of Quebec (45%) and the Prairies (46%) were less likely to report being uncomfortable.
Nearly seven in ten Canadians say they would most support stopping the slaughtering
of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continue the policy
Asked which path they would support most for Canada, a majority of Canadians (69%) say they would support Canada stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continuing it, while just under two in ten (17%) say they would support Canada continuing the policy of slaughtering horses for human consumption. Fourteen per cent are unsure. Residents of Ontario (74%), the Atlantic region (73%) and British Columbia (72%) were more likely to say they would support Canada stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption rather than continuing to allow it, while Quebec residents (62%) were less likely to say so. Canadians that say they would consider voting for the NDP were more likely to say they would support Canada stopping the slaughtering of horses in Canada for human consumption (75%) than those who said they would not consider voting for the NDP (64%).
Canadians are over four times more likely to say they would have a more positive impression rather than a more negative impression of a politician that supported a ban
in Canada on the slaughter of horses for human consumption
Asked what kind of impact it would have on their impression of a politician if that politician supported a ban in Canada on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, over one in two (52%) say they would have a more positive impression of that politician, while just under one in four (23%) say it would have no impact , and over one in ten (11%) say they would have a more negative impression of that politician. Thirteen per cent are unsure. Women (60%) were more likely to say they would have a more positive impression of that politician than men (44%). Canadians that say they would consider voting for the Liberals were more likely to say they would have a more positive impression of that politician (59%) than those who said they would not consider voting for the Liberals (47%). Canadians that say they would consider voting for the NDP were more likely to say they would have a more positive impression of that politician (62%) than those who said they would not consider voting for the NDP (45%).
Views on the slaughter of horses
QUESTION: Government statistics show that in 2016 more than 54,000 horses were slaughtered in Canada for human consumption or shipped out of the country for the same purpose. Which of the following two viewpoints more closely reflects your own regarding the slaughter of Canadian horses for meat?
Views on the slaughter of horses exported for human consumption
QUESTION: The business of slaughtering horses for human consumption also includes exporting the meat to other countries. Are you comfortable, somewhat comfortable, somewhat uncomfortable or uncomfortable with the export of horse meat from Canada for human consumption?
Direction for policies on the slaughter of horses
QUESTION: As you may know, some countries slaughter horses for human consumption and other countries, such as the United States, do not allow the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Thinking of Canada which of the following paths forward would you support most?
Impression of politician that would support a ban on the slaughter of horse for human consumption
QUESTION: If a politician supported a ban in Canada on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, would you have a more positive impression of that politician, a more negative impression of that politician or would it have no impact on your impression of that politician?
Click here to read the full results of the poll.
Thousands of American horses are live-exported to Canada each year just to be slaughtered for human consumption. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would make this illegal.
Help Pass The SAFE Act by contacting your U.S. legislators >>
The federal government is trying to quash a lawsuit launched by animal welfare advocates who want to end the export of Canadian horses for slaughter and human consumption in Japan and South Korea.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is defending its equine transportation and enforcement policies against claims that it's failing to meet legal obligations to ensure humane and safe shipments. In its June 17 court filing, the CFIA also said that revised regulations set to kick in next year make the case "moot."
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC), the group behind the legal challenge, insists the new rules slated for February 2020 could put horses on long-haul overseas flights to Asia at even greater risk. CHDC lawyer Rebeka Breder said the conditions the horses experience during transport cause distress and danger. Large, flighty animals are often crammed together without the adequate headroom required by law, the group claims.
"They're exhibiting signs of stress. There have also been injuries, there have been deaths over the last several years," Breder told CBC News. "Generally speaking, the shipments are not safe for horses. We know that for a fact."
Canada exports thousands of horses each year to Japan, a market where some consumers enjoy the meat as a raw delicacy. In 2018, Canada also began shipping live horses to South Korea. In its recent court filing, CFIA said the lawsuit is based on "cultural norms" and CHDC's interpretation of what is, and is not, an appropriate food animal.
"However, the inevitable reality is that the CFIA's role, on the facts of this case, is to determine whether the horses are healthy for export and are being safely transported," the filing said. "There is no requirement on the CFIA to obtain a particular enforcement result and it is well recognized that perfection in enforcement can never be more than an unattainable goal."
The rules for shipping horses:
The existing Health of Animals Regulations say larger horses must be segregated from each other and set minimum requirements for headroom clearance. The CHDC lawsuit said the CFIA is not always in compliance with the regulations. New 2020 rules will eliminate the segregation requirement, with a stated goal of giving shippers greater flexibility so that compatible horses can travel together with less anxiety. Maureen Harper, a retired veterinarian who worked for CFIA for 30 years, said "compatibility" is difficult for an inspector to assess at the airport.
Larger, stronger horses should be segregated to avoid injuries from kicking, biting, toppling or trampling, she said. Horses also need space to maintain their balance in transit, especially during take-off or landing. Harper said the public knows little about Canada's horse export and slaughter industry and she believes most Canadians see horses as companions like dogs and cats — not as food.
"Everybody that I speak to, they're just totally horrified when I tell them what's happening and I think the CFIA has a huge role to play here and unfortunately, in my view, they've dropped the ball," she said.
Horse welfare 'top priority':
Eliot Bouvry of Alberta-based Bouvry Exports — which produces horse meat for export, among other products — said the welfare of horses and other livestock is a "top priority" for his company and the CFIA. Horses are inspected by CFIA vets at the airport before departure for cuts, bruises, limps or sickness. Animals are transported on single-deck trailers that have been sanitized and layered with fresh shavings according to Canada's livestock transport regulations, he said.
"Other species/livestock are transported long distances for slaughter and it's not a topic of discussion," he said in a statement to CBC News. "Although activists keep the industry accountable, we do not consider it truthful that it is an animal welfare issue. For (some) people it is an ethical problem, which is another debate."
Business vs. animal welfare?:
Breder accuses the CFIA is putting business interests ahead of animal welfare. "There's a lot of money at stake, and it's quite clear to the CHDC that what is really at issue here are industry interests, not the interest and the welfare of animals and the way that they're transported," she said. "It is simply the bottom line to make as much profit as possible."
The CFIA rejects the claim that industry sales are driving policy and enforcement, and maintains that all animals, including horses, are "properly certified, fit to travel and transported humanely in a way that does not cause injury or undue suffering." The agency said new rules will strengthen safety regulations for horse transport.
Online petition calls on Minister MacAulay to stop the exporting of live horses for slaughter "The updated regulations establish clear and science-informed requirements and thus better reflect the needs of animals and improve overall animal welfare in Canada," CFIA said in a statement.
Last year, 3,871 horses worth $26.5 million were shipped to Japan. Exports were fewer in number than during the previous year, but had a significantly higher value. Canada also ships fresh, chilled and frozen horse meat to Japan worth about $29 million annually, and millions of dollars more to European countries, including France and Switzerland.
While it's considered a food taboo in most parts of North America, horse meat is sold and served in some grocery stores and restaurants in Canada.
Source: CBC News
Thousands of American horses are live-exported to Canada each year just to be slaughtered for human consumption. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would make this illegal.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently prohibit and make it a federal crime to slaughter horses for human consumption in the United States. The legislation also bans any related interstate or foreign commercial activity, such as the export of horsemeat or the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in other countries.
The gruesome practice of slaughtering horses for food has no place in the United States, and it’s well past time for Congress to say once and for all that horsemeat is not what’s for dinner, said Sen. Menendez. Horses are routinely treated with drugs that are dangerous for human consumption and do not belong in our nation’s food supply. Our bipartisan legislation will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of horses while protecting families from toxic horse meat and safeguarding the reputation of the U.S. food industry worldwide.
“Horses hold a special place in our history and culture, and the practice of slaughtering them to satisfy foreign appetites simply does not reflect the admiration we have for these animals,” said Sen. Collins. “In an effort to protect horses, this legislation would deter the transport or purchase of horses for human consumption.”
The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act prohibits the knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption. It also makes it a federal crime punishable by up to two years in prison for individuals and slaughterhouses who violate the law.
While the slaughtering of horses for human consumption in the United States is exceedingly rare, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that over 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year.
Sen. Menendez continually leads the effort to ban horsemeat by defunding federally required meat inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at slaughterhouses where horses are sent, which effectively prohibits any slaughter plants from killing horses.
Full text of the SAFE Act (S.2006) can be downloaded here.
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 >>
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.
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
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.
The Navajo Nation has canceled a planned wild horse hunt aimed at thinning a herd in an Arizona area after opponents of the hunt organized a protest against it.
The tribe’s Division of Natural Resources rescinded on Monday a proclamation declaring the 2018 feral horse management hunt designed to remove 60 horses from the Carrizo Mountains in northeastern Arizona, according to a notice on the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement that the hunt will be postponed and the proclamation was rescinded to allow for public input and education, the Farmington Daily Times reported .
There are more than 38,000 feral horses on Navajo Nation land, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Navajo Fish and Wildlife Department. Horse advocates, including members of the Facebook group Indigenous Horse Nation Protector Alliance, organized a rally for Friday in Window Rock, Arizona, to protest the hunt.
Gloria Tom, the director of Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the public outcry led to the cancellation.
Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates said in a statement that his office was not aware that the executive branch had made a decision to issue permits for hunting feral horses.
“As Navajo people, we are taught to respect all life forms and that includes horses,” Bates said. “Considering the cultural and historical factors and concerns over water shortages and overgrazing — this is certainly an issue that should have been brought before Navajo leadership and medicine people to discuss and consider.”
If the hunt had not been rescinded, hunters accompanied by wildlife conservation officers would have been able to kill non-branded horses that were at least two years old. Hunters would have been prohibited from killing mares with foals.
The proclamation called for removing up to 60 horses over a six-day period.
Begaye urged Navajo chapters to pass resolutions to address feral horse management in their regions. Begaye said the division of natural resources will put in place a horse management strategy.
“Implementation of this plan is required to ensure a sustainable future while preserving the land and natural resources that sustain Navajo tradition and culture,” Begaye said.
Source: The Associated Press
The Bureau of Land Management spends about $50 million a year to house and feed more than 46,000 wild horses and burros in corrals. Another 73,000 of the animals roam freely across the western states, producing foals and grazing on public lands that conservationists and federal officials say are quickly deteriorating.
It’s an escalating equine-population problem, and the fiscal 2018 budget President Trump proposed this week suggests a solution: using “humane euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals.”
The change could lead to sales of wild horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada, as well as to the culling of herds, to address what the bureau calls an “unsustainable” situation. But it has been condemned by horse and other animal advocacy groups, some of which have consistently resisted efforts to impose limits on an icon of the American West that has been federally protected since 1971.
The Trump proposal notes that the BLM’s wild horse and burro budget has quadrupled since 2000, from $20.4 million then to $80.4 million in 2017, and that most of the money goes to care for animals that reside in taxpayer-funded corrals. The proposed budget anticipates saving $10 million annually by selling some of those animals and by reducing roundups and horse and burro birth-control programs.
The use of euthanasia and sales to manage the population is not a new idea: The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act permits the interior secretary to remove older and unadoptable animals by those methods. But for much of the past three decades, Congress has used annual appropriations bill riders to prohibit the killing of healthy animals or “sale that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.” While it is unclear whether lawmakers would now be willing to lift the prohibition, an aide on the House Appropriations Committee said the request would be considered.
Although the last U.S. horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007, meat processing plants in Mexico and Canada slaughter tens of thousands of domestic American horses each year for export to Europe and Asia. And despite the congressional ban, some wild horses sold to private buyers have been slaughtered anyway. In November 2015, federal investigators found that a Colorado rancher to whom the government had sold 1,794 mustangs turned around and sold them to slaughterhouses in Mexico.
As the wild horses and burros, which have no natural predators, have increased in numbers, officials and conservation groups say they have depleted the amount of forage food and water available to native species in the West. That, in turn, has increased the risk of widespread starvation and thirst among these herds and wild animals on public lands.
Wild horse advocates counter that the bureau is pandering to ranchers who view the horses as competition on public range land also used for cattle grazing.
Meanwhile, adoptions by the public — the bureau’s primary program for reducing the population in government corrals — have not increased with the population. Last year, 2,912 wild horses and burros were adopted, up from 2,583 in 2012, according to agency figures.
The budget proposal comes eight months after the bureau’s wild horse and burro advisory board, a volunteer body that makes no binding decisions, sparked an uproar among wild horse advocates by recommending euthanasia or sales for the animals. Subsequent false reports about a looming government plan to kill 45,000 wild horses prompted the BLM, then under the Obama administration, to say it “does not and will not euthanize healthy animals.”
Some board members said their recommendation was made, in part, to shock Congress into doing something about a problem they believe is spiraling out of control.
“All these horses in long-term holding are eating up 60 percent of the wild horse and burro budget. Other things can’t be done well or thoroughly because we’re feeding a lot of stockpiled horses that no one wants,” Julie Weikel, a large-animal veterinarian on the advisory committee, said in an interview this week. “I fully expect a full-court press from the advocates to put the rider back on. But I assure you that will not solve the problem.”
The question of how to address the problem appeared on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s radar not long after he was confirmed. According to his personal schedule, he held a video call on the topic on March 24 with the BLM’s acting director, Michael Nedd, and several other senior officials.
For more than 40 years, past administrations have tried but failed to control the animals’ numbers. In 2009, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar proposed that the U.S. government spend roughly $96 million to buy land in the Midwest and East to create two preserves that could each support 3,600 horses. He also suggested that federal officials partner with nonprofit organizations and other private groups to create five additional preserves, so that 25,000 animals would be living on preserves within five years. The government also would aggressively sterilize the horses and burros to keep them from reproducing.
At the time of Salazar’s proposal, about 37,000 horses and burros were roaming and another 32,000 were in holding pens. But the money did not materialize, and the number of animals on public range lands increased sharply. It now is about three times more than officials say is sustainable.
Some animal advocacy groups say the BLM has not proactively pursued horse and burro birth control, though other activist groups have sued the agency over the use of injectable contraception and the spaying of mares. In a statement this week, Matt Bershadker, president and chief executive of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the animals could be “humanely” managed with fertility control, but the BLM “would rather make these innocent animals pay for draconian budget cuts with their very lives.”
Weikel said she hopes Trump’s budget proposal prompts Congress to consider lifting its usual rider. Considering the proposal, along with the advisory board’s recommendation, “maybe thoughtful people…would realize we have a true problem out there. And we are not using all the tools.” In addition to euthanasia and sales, she said, permanent sterilization should be utilized more.
In a statement, the BLM said its goal “is always to find good homes for the thousands of wild horses and burros gathered from overpopulated herds on our country’s public lands.” It continued, “With an expanded suite of management tools, the BLM can strengthen its efforts to reverse the declining health of our nation’s wild horse and burro herds and manage the public lands on which they and so many other species depend.”
Source: The Washington Post