Thanks to Bush, Wild horses and Burros can now be slaughtered for meat December 10, 2004 3:26 PM
- A provision in the $388 billion catchall spending bill signed by President Bush Wednesday could mean cheaper meat for the French - from American wild horses.Congress must act NOW to reverse this alarming trend, and the first step would be to repeal the Burns amendment and ensure that wild horses cannot be sold to slaughter.
Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., slipped the language into the bill that ends a 33-year-old ban on the sale of wild horses for slaughter. It orders the Bureau of Land Management to sell any captured horse at least 10 years old and those horses that are captured and fail to be adopted.
More than 14,000 horses that haven't been adopted are being held in seven long-term holding facilities in Kansas and Oklahoma. Under Burns's provision, the bureau can keep money from the sales.
"Our fear is that this could result almost immediately in thousands of horses going to slaughter," said Michael Markarian, president of the Fund for Animals.
There also could be a price drop for customers of two Texas slaughterhouses where more than 50,000 domesticated horses were killed last year. The United States exported 8,750 metric tons of horsemeat in 2003, about one-third of which went to France. Other countries receiving large amounts of U.S. horsemeat include Belgium, Switzerland, Mexico and Japan.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management, Celia Boddington, said officials need to study the provision before predicting how many horses will be sold.
Burns said he believes that less than 10 percent of the wild horses will go to the slaughterhouse.
"It is our hope that bringing this problem to light will motivate the federal agencies and horse advocates alike and offer new opportunities to find these animals proper, caring homes," said Burns.
Over the last two decades, nearly 200,000 mustangs and burros have been adopted through the bureau but there are still more than 37,000 on ranges in 11 Western states, only 2,000 fewer than in 1974.
Adoptions have not kept pace with removals and the cost of the management program has soared, from $29 million last year to $40 million this year, including $7 million for three more longterm
"Do you want free-range, free-spirit wild horses kept in a feed lot? Isn't that the worst of outcomes?" said Burns.
Markarian of the Fund for Animals said the solution is to let more horses run free on the range and cut back on cattle grazing.
That would "devastate those local economies," responded Burns.
Critics said the provision should have been debated. "This is another issue where we should have had a hearing and brought in the experts with the range managers and talk about what the right balance is," said Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
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