Government Caught Illegally Selling Wild Horses to Slaughter as Agency Launches Massive Roundup Campaign

National Coalition Calls for Emergency Halt to all Mustang Removals and Sales

Today, the government launches a new campaign to roundup and remove thousands more wild horses from the range this fall and winter, even as evidence mounts that the Interior Department, under Secretary Ken Salazar, is illegally selling wild horses for slaughter. In response to a damning investigative news report exposing the Department’s sale of captured mustangs to a known kill buyer with longtime ties to Salazar, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition, today called for an immediate halt to all sales and removals of wild horses from the range.

The news report, published Friday by ProPublica and based in part on information provided by BLM whistleblowers, revealed that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), had sold 1,700 captured mustangs to a livestock hauler named Tom Davis of La Jara, Colorado. The BLM approved the sales to Davis -- a known kill buyer who purchases horses and ships them for slaughter in Mexico -- under the guise that Davis would sell the horses “for use in movies” in Mexico. According to the article, Davis purchased horses for as little as $10 each and “would take males or females, so long as they were big.” It is well known that kill buyers sell horses by the pound to slaughter plants.

The article notes that BLM began shipping “truckloads and truckloads” of horses to Davis after his neighbor and business associate, Ken Salazar, became Interior Secretary in 2009. Salazar is a fifth-generation rancher. Ranchers throughout the West lobby for the removal of mustangs from public lands to make room for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing. The livestock industry has also been a vocal advocate for slaughtering wild horses.

The ProPublica piece indicates that the BLM used Davis as an outlet for the huge stockpile of wild horses that it had rounded up and warehoused in holding facilities. There are now more wild horses in government holding facilities (50,000) than remain free on public lands in the West (<32,000). Appropriations language, passed annually by Congress, prohibits the BLM from selling captured wild horses for slaughter.

“The BLM turned a blind eye to the intentions of a known kill buyer in selling thousands of federally-protected wild horses for slaughter in Mexico,” said Suzanne Roy, director of AWHPC, whose coalition includes more than 50 horse advocacy, conservation, public interest and historic preservation organizations. “This unconscionable and illegal treatment of these American icons deserves immediate investigation and action. “

““In light of this devastating article, we call for an immediate halt to the roundup, removal and sale of mustangs by the government while an independent and credible investigation of this situation is undertaken,” said Roy “In removing thousands more wild horses from the West over the next four months, the BLM is setting the stage for the mass slaughter of captured wild horses. The American people will not tolerate this reprehensible and illegal treatment of America’s mustangs.”

Today the BLM began a mustang roundup in northeastern Nevada’s Antelope Complex. The agency will use helicopters to terrorize, stampede and capture 200 wild horses and remove them from the range. AWHPC will have an observer onsite and will make video available of the roundup activities beginning Tuesday.

Instead of rounding up wild horses by the thousands, the BLM should be managing them on the range, AWHPC and its coalition partners say. The federal government could save millions of dollars of taxpayer money every year by using responsible and humane solutions, including fertility control, that preserve America’s wild horses for future generations.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 45 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.