Press release: RTF credits BLM for rescinding wild horse sales policy change

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Wild horses held at the Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Center in Reno, Nevada. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation today credited the Bureau of Land Management for rescinding a 2018 wild horse and burro sales policy change that opened the door even wider for kill buyers to purchase these horses en masse for slaughter.

The 2018 change had allowed a single buyer to purchase up to 24 captured wild horses or burros per day with no questions asked and no waiting period. Under a memo issued on Wednesday, field offices will immediately revert to a 2014 policy that limits buyers to purchasing no more than four wild horses or burros every six months, unless they receive special permission.

“In 2005, when Congress gave BLM the authority to sell captured horses over the age of 10, it was a serious blow to efforts to protect and preserve America’s wild horse and burros,” said Neda DeMayo, founder and president of Return to Freedom. “When the sales policy change was made last year, it looked as though the very agency charged with overseeing wild horses and burros was prepared to look the other way while federally protected animals were shipped in large numbers to foreign slaughterhouses.

“While we still hope that Congress will do away with sale authority, altogether, we appreciate that BLM officials have responded to the many conversations with RTF and our colleagues, outcry of our supporters, and the concerns of members of Congress by rescinding the policy change.”

In Fiscal Year 2018, BLM sold 1,201 wild horses and 250 burros, more than the previous five years combined. While BLM emphasized that it is against agency policy to sell to kill buyers, the 2018 policy change did little to prevent it.

In 2005, Congress amended the Wild and Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971 to allow the BLM to sell captured wild horses ages 10-older or those that had been passed over for adoption three times, making them even more vulnerable to disposal.

Because wild horses and burros are not tracked after they are sold, it is impossible to know how many are among the tens of thousands of American horses shipped to Canada and Mexico annually for slaughter. The last domestic horse slaughter plant closed in 2007.

In recent years, Congress has consistently included language in Interior Appropriations bills barring BLM from using tax dollars to sell wild horses and burros to slaughter, including for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. Unfortunately, once title is transferred to an individual for these once wild and free icons of the West, they are easily sent to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada, or prey to illegal slaughter.

Congress has also included language in Agriculture Appropriations bills barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from hiring horsemeat inspectors, effectively block slaughter plants from opening reopening within our borders.

Polls have consistently shown that 80 percent of Americans — across the political spectrum — oppose horse slaughter and support the conservation of wild horses and burros.

Legislation to permanently ban horse slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, received the support of 218 House and 30 Senate cosponsors but was not brought up for a vote during the last congress.

The newly reintroduced House version of the bill, H.R. 961, has amassed 88 cosponsors since Feb. 4.

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