The Bureau of Land Management wants to be prepared if U.S. horse slaughterhouses open for business, a key BLM staffer said. "They may never open. They may open. But if they do open, we are ready," said Joan Guilfoyle, BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program division chief.
Speaking at a three-day meeting this week of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in suburban Washington, D.C., Guilfoyle said her team has drafted letters to send if slaughterhouses reopen to warn owners that BLM-protected horses cannot be processed. In the past, she said, plant owners had agreed to work with BLM if there were questions about a horse's status.
She would reinstate such agreements, she said, if new slaughter plants came online. For the first time since 2007, horse slaughter plants are poised to reopen domestically. Congress had banned funding for Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughter plants, effectively shutting down the industry, but the ban was eliminated a year ago. A few slaughter plants had aimed to start operations this summer, but a lawsuit from animal welfare groups stalled their plans.
Meanwhile, Guilfoyle said that the investigation of Tom Davis, who was accused of taking BLM-acquired horses to slaughterhouses across the border, was taken over by the agency's Office of the Inspector General.
"They told us then that we could get a report back in two weeks, or we could get a report back from them in two years," she said.
The advisory board was meeting to respond to a sweeping report this summer from the National Academy of Sciences that found that BLM was underestimating herd sizes -- and exacerbating the problem by removing horses.
The board highlighted other recommendations from the report: that BLM develop a standard for how frequently to conduct surveys of the population and that the bureau should make that data more available to the public. It also found that BLM's method for keeping tabs on its wild horse population isn't in line with current science.
"As we have found in the report itself, I think we have to agree that there are some gaps there," said Boyd Spratling, a veterinarian and co-chairman of the advisory board.
Researchers and board members alike acknowledged budgetary constraints the bureau faces as it works to control its wild horses. Guilfoyle said BLM has more than 50,000 horses in holding at eco-sanctuaries, short-term corrals and long-term pastures. And she said that 65 percent of the bureau's current wild horse budget goes toward caring and feeding for the
Source: Greenwire by Whitney Blair Wyckoff