Federal Agencies Contradict Obama Administration Anti-Horse Slaughter Stand; Send Wild Horses Into Slaughter Pipeline

Interior Dept. Gearing Up to Send WIld Horses from Sheldon Wildlife Refuge to Slaughter Middleman & Theodore Nat'l Park Horses to Slaughter Auction

Washington, DC (September 19, 2013)…. Despite receiving 14,000 faxes and emails from concerned citizens and inquiries from Congress, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is still poised to turn over an estimated 240 wild horses, captured from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada last week, to a slaughter middleman in Mississippi. 

At the same time, the National Park Service is gearing up to capture approximately 100 wild horses from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota badlands and sell them on October 23 at a livestock auction frequented by kill buyers. 
Last month, the U.S. Forest Service (FS) backed out of a plan to round up wild horses from public and tribal lands in Nevada and deliver them to a slaughter auction, but the tribe continued the roundup on its own with authorization from both the FS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

These actions by federal agencies directly contradict the Obama Administration's public opposition to horse slaughter.

“It’s time that federal agencies align their wild horse policies with the Obama Administration’s stand against the cruel practice of horse slaughter,” said Neda DeMayo, President of Return to Freedom, the founding organization of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC). “America is not a horse eating culture and the vast majority of Americans are opposed to horse slaughter. The government's use of our tax dollars to deliver historic and cherished wild horses from our public lands into the slaughter pipeline, either directly or by third party laundering, is an ongoing travesty."
Last week a total of 400 wild horses were captured in a helicopter roundup at the Sheldon Refuge on the Nevada/Oregon border. The horses are being held and processed in corrals at Sheldon for the next 30 days.  The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a division of the DOI, operates the refuge and is prohibiting the public from viewing the captured horses. FWS plans to turn approximately 160 of the animals over to legitimate adoption contractors, leaving 240 for Stan Palmer of J&S Associates in Pelahatchie, Mississippi. The FWS will pay Palmer over $1,000 per horse to take the horses off the government’s hands, despite the department’s own internal investigation that showed wild horses previously sent to Palmer had ended up in the slaughter pipeline.

The FWS intends to eradicate wild horses and burros from the refuge, despite excellent range conditions, broad public support and interest in viewing the horses on the refuge, and the animals’ historic significance to the area.

“The wild horses of the Sheldon Refuge are America’s war horses. Their ancestors were cavalry mounts who fought in battles through World War I. These historic animals should be protected and preserved, not eradicated from our public lands and callously dumped into the slaughter pipeline,” said Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition of more than 50 organizations.

The Coalition is calling on the FWS to return to the range any captured Sheldon wild horses that cannot be responsibly adopted out. The horses could be given fertility control or sterilized before being returned set free. In addition to appealing to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and FWS director Daniel Ashe, advocates have turned for assistance to Senator Barbara Boxer, whose Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate has jurisdiction over FWS refuges.

Laura Leigh, Founder and President of Wild Horse Education has filed a lawsuit against the FWS over its plans for the Sheldon horses."Sheldon horses stand on the verge of being sent to slaughter buyers again," stated Leigh "it would be a tremendous American tragedy if we as a nation forget the contribution these animals played in our history and betrayed them, again.

"We stand ready to do anything and everything we can to prevent these amazing horses from landing in a sale yard," stated Leigh "it would be a tremendous American tragedy if we as a nation forget the contribution these animals played in our history and betrayed them, again."

President Obama's 2014 budget includes language to stop horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. by prohibiting federal funding for USDA horse meat inspections. In addition Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in March that there must be a better way to deal with unwanted horses than slaughter them for human consumption.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.

Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world. Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to 400 wild horses and burros at its sanctuary in Santa Barbara, California.

Wild Horse Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting America’s wild herds from roundup, slaughter and extinction. 

More information

For more information, please see:


 Letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, , AWHPC

 Alert on Sheldon Roundup, AWHPC

10,000 Citizens Protest Feds' Plan to Roundup Wild Horses and Send to Slaughter Pipeline, AWHPC

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and America’s War Horses, the Ultimate Betrayal, Wild Horse Education

Bismark Tribune article
"Operation Bandlands Moving Full Speed Ahead," The Cloud Foundation Report
Operation Badlands, video by The Cloud Foundation
Ft. McDermitt Roundup and Rescue from Slaughter Auction, AWHPC Report
How Obama is Enabling the Slaughter of Hundreds of Wild Horses, Esquire