Tragedy Unfolds for Tribal Horses in the Pacific Northwest

Wild horses on the Yakama Reservation. Seattle Times Photo

For many years, a number of tribes in the Pacific Northwest have been pushing to open horse slaughter plants on tribal lands so that they can profit from slaughtering wild and discarded domestic horses left to breed unchecked on Native American. Led by the Yakama and Warm Springs nations, these tribes have lobbied for federal funds to round up horses and send them to slaughter. In fact, they have been a key component of the horse slaughter proponents’ strategy to re-establish this horrifically cruel industry on American soil.

Recently, the Warm Springs and Yakama tribes have begun to roundup horses – reportedly using ATV’s – from reservation lands and sell them to kill buyers. The kill buyers, in turn, sell the horses to Bouvry Exports, which operates a horse slaughter empire in Canada that has repeatedly been exposed for its unspeakable cruelty. Tragically, most of the mares rounded up at this time of year have foals by their sides, and these vulnerable babies are the collateral damage of this brutal industry. Reportedly, if rescue groups do not purchase the foals, they are killed by clubbing or bullet shots to the head.

Yakima horses at feedlot in Zillah, Washington last week. Photo by Annonymous

This month, several hundred horses were delivered from the Yakama reservation to a feedlot in Zillah, Washington. After several days, the adult horses were loaded onto trailers headed for the Canadian border, while dozens of foals, many unweaned, were left behind, trampled, injured, dehydrated, traumatized and crying out for their mothers.

A stallion calls for his family in the feedlot last week. Photo by Annonymous

On Tuesday, June 4, 2014 numerous people from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana appeared in Zillah, WA with horse trailers for a last minute attempt to rescue and place 49 orphaned foals that came off the Yakama range. Many adopters took anywhere from two to four foals each.

Reportedly, thousands of horses could be rounded up this summer from these reservations and sent to slaughter, orphaning hundreds upon hundreds of vulnerable foals and yearlings, many of whom will not make it out of this nightmare alive despite the best efforts of rescuers.

Ironically, the Yakama website states that the tribe reveres the horse as “a symbol of the true Yakama Spirit and strength that survived the most difficult times over the last 200 years.” The brutal treatment of these animals by at least some members of the tribe is evidence of a deplorable moral bankruptcy and complete departure from traditional Yakama cultural values.

This situation will be difficult to stop as long as there is profit to be made by some members of the tribe in selling horses for slaughter. The only solution would be to legally ban the export of American horses across US borders to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico. Many individuals and organizations are working hard to secure this essential outcome. Meanwhile the battle lines are clear. As the Humane Society of the United States’ Oregon State Director Scott Beckstead recently stated:

“On one side, ruthless cruelty and greed in the form of the Yakama Tribe and their kill-buyer friends, sending hundreds - and ultimately thousands - of wild horses to horrific deaths in Canadian slaughter plants; on the other side, big-hearted, selflessly dedicated rescuers, working hard to save the orphaned baby foals from terrible deaths. This is but one front in a very real war that is waging all over the world, a war of cruelty against kindness, ignorance against enlightenment, greed against respect. We all must choose which side we're on - and those who choose to stand by and do nothing have chosen a side nonetheless.”

Our parent organization, Return to Freedom, is working hard on this situation, please read RTF's press release on the Yakama situation here."