Wild horses adopted under Federal program are going to slaughter

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Records show that some people who are paid $1,000 a head by the government to give legally protected mustangs “good homes” are sending the horses to auction once they get the money.

When we saw the above headline we were shocked . . . yet not shocked. After more than 20 years of following the plight of America’s wild horses and burros, what can possibly be left to shock us about.

While we have often wondered what type of situations adopted wild horses and burros find themselves in, it is virtually impossible to track them.

Here is an answer, and it is a disturbing and heartbreaking one, but not unexpected.

Dave Phillips, reporting for the New York Times writes:

In a lifetime of working with horses, Gary Kidd, 73, had never adopted an untrained wild mustang before. But when the federal government started paying people $1,000 a horse to adopt them, he signed up for as many as he could get. So did his wife, two grown daughters and a son-in-law.

Mr. Kidd, who owns a small farm near Hope, Ark., said in a recent telephone interview that he was using the mustangs, which are protected under federal law, to breed colts and that they were happily eating green grass in his pasture.

In fact, by the time he spoke on the phone, the animals were long gone. Records show that Mr. Kidd had sold them almost as soon as he legally could. He and his family received at least $20,000, and the mustangs ended up at a dusty Texas livestock auction frequented by slaughterhouse brokers known as kill buyers.

When asked about the sale, Mr. Kidd abruptly hung up.

The Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of caring for the nation’s wild horses, created the $1,000-a-head Adoption Incentive Program in 2019 because it wanted to move a huge surplus of mustangs and burros out of government corrals and find them “good homes.” Thousands of first-time adopters signed up, and the bureau hailed the program as a success.

But records show that instead of going to good homes, truckloads of horses were dumped at slaughter auctions as soon as their adopters got the federal money. A program intended to protect wild horses was instead subsidizing their path to destruction.

“This is the government laundering horses,” said Brieanah Schwartz, a lawyer for the advocacy group American Wild Horse Campaign, which has tracked the program. “They call it adoptions, knowing the horses are going to slaughter. But this way the B.L.M. won’t get its fingerprints on it.”

Read full report »

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act

In response to public outcry, Congress unanimously passed the “Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act” (Public Law 92-195) to provide for the necessary management, protection and control of wild horses and burros on public lands. President Richard M. Nixon signed the bill into law on December 15, 1971.

I think it is fair to say this law is not being enforced. And it does not matter who is in charge in Washington D.C., Democrats or Republicans.

There are numerous active wild horse and burro protection groups representing millions of Americans, yet they are continually ignored. From what we hear many of those millions have become jaded, and given up.

So what do we do?

We must find someone with real power in Washington D.C. to demand the enforcement of the Wild Horse and Burro Act and stop the continued abuse and carnage of America’s federally protected wild horses and burros. Is that the current United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland? We don’t know but we think we need to find out.

In the meantime, perhaps we should look to the history of the Act for inspiration:

During the 1950s, Velma B. Johnston, later known as “Wild Horse Annie,” became aware of the ruthless and indiscriminate manner in which wild horses were being treated on western rangelands. So-called “mustangers” played a major role in harvesting wild horses for commercial purposes during this time.

Wild Horse Annie led a grassroots campaign, famously involving many school children. Newspapers published articles about the exploitation of wild horses and burros. As noted by the Associated Press on July 15, 1959: “Seldom has an issue touched such a responsive chord.”

There is much more to Mr. Phillip’s report. Read it in full here.

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Featured Image: Wild horses being unloaded in preparation for an auction in Beaumont, Texas. Credit: Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times.

5 thoughts on “Wild horses adopted under Federal program are going to slaughter”

  1. It will be up to people like us who visit here and read these reports to take action. I can tell you that after reading the usual widely popular show and racing blogs that “those people” nearly 100 percent could care less about the wild horse issues. ANY wild horse issues. They appear to be mostly in favor of removal, sterilization of mares, or continuing to use mechanized gathers and BLM corrals; I saw only one person advocating for responsible adoption and training via “mustang challenge” events. Remember that several national organizations that govern show and racing, even as recently as less than a decade ago, were in favor of horse slaughter. That included a rescue organization in my area (Oregon) which finally removed their pro-slaughter materials on their website after a public shaming. So – that is what it takes. Relentless public outcry by those who actually care. It takes more than a minimally published NYT article which the rest of the mainstream media has largely ignored; for example, it only appears on internet news aggregates if you use the search box – not included on the main page headline news. It takes repeatedly contacting federal and state prosecutors and elected officials demanding that those who committed these crimes actually get prosecuted including for the federal crimes of crossing state lines in the commission of fraud.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unabated, BLM continues unethical programs hurting our wild horses as in the past. Dave Phillips revealed the sale of 1800 horses for $10/head, and they were hauled to auction by Tom Davis under DOI Secretary Salazar over a four year period from 2008 – 2012.

    But why Phillips continues to use outlandish facts is beyond good journalism. Why does Phillips continue to rely on the BLM for facts. Where is NYT’s fact checking? It’s true that wild horses should come out of storage; they are taken out, but taken where is questionable. Whenever a truck comes to a facility with horses, it goes out with horses. Phillips writes that the “wild horse program is now in a crisis. The cost of storing horses has cannibalized the helicopter budget, and roundups can no longer keep pace with growing herds. There are now about 100,000 wild horses in the West — triple what the bureau says the land can support. If left unchecked, in another decade they could number 500,000.” However, the BLM does not do scientific surveys. They estimate yearly growth rate of 20% based on the entire herd including stallions and yearlings, but stallions do not have foals.

    If there is a crisis in program it’s due to other problems, such as charging a very low rate for millions of livestock to graze – not because of a minuscule number of equines. The heli chase and catch of equines is cruel, results in injuries and deaths even after the chase. Holding equines with no relief from elements is very cruel. The equines in holding should be released to our public lands and livestock permits need to be rescinded. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing ranchers, energy extractors and the like. And how about the NYT doing their job with proper fact checking and editing of journalists’ articles?

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