Navajo leader drops his support for slaughter of wild horses on the Reservation

A feral horse roundup in August in Manuelito, N.M. The Navajo Nation hired the wranglers.  Photo: Diego James Robles.
PHOTO CREDIT: DIEGO JAMES ROBLES / NYT
A feral horse roundup in August in Manuelito, N.M. The Navajo Nation hired the wranglers.

WRITTEN BY FERNANDA SANTOS

Cross-posted from The New York Times
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PHOENIX — Under pressure by animal welfare groups and many of his own people, the president of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, has reversed his stance on horse slaughtering, saying he will no longer support it and will order the temporary suspension of the roundups of feral horses on the reservation.

The agreement, brokered by Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday. One of its key provisions is to pressure the federal government to do more to help the Navajos handle the tens of thousands of horses that roam freely on their land. Mr. Shelly has estimated that feral horses cost the Navajos $200,000 a year in damage to property and range.

“I am interested in long-term humane solutions to manage our horse populations,” Mr. Shelly said. “Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us.”

Mr. Shelly’s recalibrated position is sure to strengthen the arguments against horse slaughter in the nation, just as a legal fight to block the opening of horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri reaches its final stages.

It could also smooth relations between his administration and tribal elders in some of the Navajo Nation’s largest chapters, who have stood steadfastly against the roundups even as Mr. Shelly embraced them in August as the best available option, given the tribe’s limited resources, to keep its feral horse population under control.

At the time, his stance put the country’s largest federally recognized tribe in a collision course with Mr. Richardson and the actor Robert Redford, who had justified joining a lawsuit against horse slaughtering filed by animal-rights groups by saying they were “standing with Native American leaders.”

In a unanimous vote last month, the Navajo Nation chapter in Shiprock, N.M., banned horse roundups in its territory. The chapter’s president, Duane Yazzie, said members were concerned about the abandoned colts and the sale of the horses to meat plants in Mexico, where slaughter is legal.

“This is a huge event,” Mr. Richardson said. “One of the most important and largest tribes in the country is now on the record against horse slaughtering, and that should be a major factor both in Congress and in the courts.”

The Navajos estimate there are 75,000 feral horses roaming the reservation, an estimate based on aerial observations, a method they concede is unreliable. One of the points of the agreement is to find a way to take an accurate count.

4 thoughts on “Navajo leader drops his support for slaughter of wild horses on the Reservation”

  1. The easy way to count the number of horses is to break up the reservation where the horses are located into sections and use a helicopter armed with a camera and fly each section. That way the count should be accurate. Personally I don’t believe there are 75,000 horses on this reservation because they would be moving into other states looking for grazing.

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    1. There is a sure fired way to see how many horses are there or anywhere send a drone video camera !!!!!!!!!

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  2. It’s about time people stand up for what is right and protect these horses. If the count is that important gather them, count them and release them afterward. Collections can be taken for the stop breeding and have these horse contain allowing for a stronger herd, more controlled births etc. It would also limit some of the damage to land and crops. There are many ways to correct the over population other than killing and the greed of others doing it for profit. We the people need to get compassion back into our lives not just for our animals but for our family as well. We need to speak out and stop the senseless slaughter of God’s creatures and.or at least do it with some humane ways that allows them to leave the earth with peace instead of being in horror while taking their last breath. The video I saw of men killing these horse will haunt me all the days of my life. More should see it for I know if they did things would not take the route that they have been doing, because they would not be able to sleep at night for a long long time and their eyes would dry out from not being able to close. But they would drowned in their tears forever more!.

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