Written by: Suzanne Roy, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
Every year, the federal government uses low-flying helicopters to round up and capture thousands of wild horses and burros in the American West. Now evidence shows the government has been knowingly selling these horses to a man who buys and sells horses for slaughter.
It’s hard to believe these wild horses are protected by an act of Congress and are national icons. The federal government is supposed to look after the land and its animals, not pit species against species and choose the winner based on which ones turn the most profit.
The inhumane treatment of wild horses in Interior Department roundups has been well documented. Horses are stampeded for miles, chased into trap pens, crammed into trailers and held in confinement pens, where foals are forcibly separated from their mothers. Horses have been stampeded into barbed wire, run so long and hard they have literally collapsed from exhaustion, broken their legs and necks and lost their lives.
As bad as the roundups are, what happens to the horses after their capture may be even worse, as a recent ProPublica investigation revealed.
Pro Publica reports that since 2009, the BLM has sold 1,700 wild horses — 70 percent of all sale — to a known kill buyer and horse slaughter advocate named Tom Davis, who just happens to be a neighbor and business associate of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Incredibly, the U.S. government has paid thousands of dollars to ship the horses to Davis, who then has then paid as little as $10 a piece to purchase them.
The beautiful wild horses pictured below roamed free in Wyoming until the government rounded them up in 2010 and sold them to Davis.
Who is Tom Davis? He’s the man who told Pro Publica, “Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt. What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?”
Davis bought 560 horses in 2009, 332 in 2010, 599 more in 2011 and 239 in just the first four months of this year, averaging 35 horses at a time, and sometimes as many as 240 in one buy. That’s much more than the one or two horses for most BLM buyers each year.
Davis, a known kill buyer who purchases U.S. horses and sells them to slaughter plants in Mexico, told the government that he was buying wild horses to “use in movies” in Mexico.
This activity should have raised alarm bells at the Interior Department, yet the government asked no questions in response to Davis’ implausible claims.
Instead, newly revealed internal e-mails show that the government actually turned to Davis to help relieve an overloaded system.
Did the Interior Department knowingly sell America’s wild horses to slaughter despite a Congressional prohibition on doing so?
That’s what we need to find out and, in the mean time, we need to demand an end to the costly and cruel roundups.
Now, more than ever, we know that this isn’t a federal management program. It’s truly an elimination program.
There are now more wild horses stockpiled in government holding facilities (50,000) than left free in the wild (31,000). If we allow this program to continue, it will end with the elimination of mustangs in the wild.
There is a better away than spending millions of taxpayer dollars (nearly $80 million this fiscal year) than to have helicopters terrorize wild horses, tilting their blades to terrorize and stampede them into pens where they are confined for life.
We support safe and proven fertility control to maintain healthy population levels and restoring lost habitat for wild horses- a solution that’s more cost-effective and vastly more humane.
But first, we need answers. That’s why our campaign has launched a petition calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to immediately suspend the roundup programs and order a thorough investigation. In just one week, we’ve gathered over 25,000 signatures.
We’ll continue to carry our message to Secretary Salazar, to Congress, and to the White House. We represent tens of thousands of supporters around the country who understand that time is running out and if we don’t act soon, there may not be any more wild horses left to save.
Here’s how you can take action.
1. Sign our petition calling on Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to stop the roundups and investigate the horses sold to horse slaughter advocate Tom Davis.
2. Visit our website, wildhorsepreservation.org, to learn more about the problem, solution and our work on this issue. Sign up for e-mail updates to stay connected with our campaign.
3. Share this story on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo Credit: Carol Walker