Investigative reporter Dave Philipps is doing what most journalists used to do, report in the public interest.
On September 28, 2012, he released a report via Pro Publica relating to a wild horse and burro issue that is garnering a high degree of interest and not a little excitement around wild horse protection circles: Are the BLM selling wild horses to slaughter?
From everything we have heard since the Int’ Fund for Horses began operations in 2003, I believe the answer to that has to be a resounding yes. It has been going on for years. Trouble is, it is hard to prove. It is hard to prove because accurate numbers of wild horses and burros rounded up, stockpiled or moved from this place to that, are almost impossible to secure.
The figures given out by the BLM never quite add up. It is easy to see the BLM’s intentional manipulation of data and that there are thousands of wild horses missing. But where can they be? Dead is the only logical conclusion. For the BLM, who intermittently mention “euthanizing” wild horses and burros during their meetings when talking about the agency’s stockpiled equines, horse slaughter is a great solution because they do not have to kill the horses themselves then dispose of thousands of bodies.
A lot of this article swirls around Tom Davis, who is not just a Colorado horse hauler, but a well known horse slaughterhouse middleman.
Probably what has caught the most attention are these statements:
1. “Adoptions kept pace with round ups until investigations in the late 1980s and 1990s showed that many adopters, including several BLM employees, had turned a quick profit by selling the horses to slaughterhouses.”
2. “The BLM has sold Davis at least 1,700 wild horses and burros since 2009, agency records show  — 70 percent of the animals purchased through its sale program.”
3. “For most of that time, he has lived in the tiny town of La Jara, in Colorado’s mountain-ringed San Luis Valley, just down the road from Ken Salazar, the former U.S. Senator who now heads the Department of the Interior.” (referring to Davis)
4. ” . . . after Salazar became head of the Interior Department — the agency started sending him [Davis] truckload after truckload, from all over the West. Soon he was by far their biggest customer.”
5. “He said he had approached pet food companies to buy the meat and asked Ken Salazar’s brother, John Salazar, who is the head of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, to help him get a grant to finance the business. John Salazar declined to help Davis, and so far the slaughterhouse venture has not gone forward.”
In all our dealings with Sally Spencer, we have found her to be a syrupy-voiced viper when it comes to the wild horse and burro issue. Look at what she has to say:
- Sally Spencer, who runs the wild horse sales program, said the agency has had no indication of problems with Davis and it would be unfair for the BLM to look more closely at him based on the volume of his purchases.
“It is no good to just stir up rumors,” she said. “We have never heard of him not being able to find homes. So people are innocent until proven guilty in the United States.”
Well done, Sally. True to form. Of course you have no problems with Davis. He is doing exactly what you expect him to do.
What appears to be the biggest lie from among all of the scoundrels quoted in Phillips’ article may be this one:
- BLM officials say they carefully screen buyers and are adamant that no wild horses ever go to slaughter.
“We don’t feel compelled to sell to anybody we don’t feel good about,” agency spokesman Tom Gorey said. “We want the horses to be protected.”
There is much, much more. It makes riveting reading although the content is no surprise to long-time wild horse and burro advocates. It is gratifying — if that is the right word — for us finally to see so much of what we have been saying and for such a long time, investigated and exposed by a real reporter.