Trump Budget Allows Sale of Wild Horses05/25 05:53
President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next
year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current
requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won't be resold for slaughter.
PALOMINO VALLEY, Nev. (AP) -- President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls
for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the
West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won't be
resold for slaughter.
Wild horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of
protection for wild horses --- an icon of the American West --- and could send
thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as
They say the Trump administration is kowtowing to livestock interests who
don't want the region's estimated 59,000 mustangs competing for precious forage
across more than 40,000 square miles (103,600 sq. kilometers) of rangeland in
10 states managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The budget proposal marks the latest skirmish in the decades-old controversy
pitting ranchers and rural communities against groups that want to protect the
horses from Colorado to California.
"This is simply a way to placate a very well-funded and vocal livestock
lobby," Laura Leigh, president of the nonprofit protection group Wild Horse
Education, said about the budget proposal.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other interests have been
urging BLM for years to allow sales of wild horses for slaughter to free up
room in overcrowded government corrals for the capture of more animals.
Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, blamed
the stalemate on the "emotional and anti-management interests who have built
their business models on preventing rational and responsible actions while
enhancing their fundraising through misinformation."
Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also grappled with
the spiraling costs of managing the nearly 60,000 horses on the range and
another 45,000 currently kept in U.S. holding pens and contracted private
Over the past eight years, BLM's wild horse budget has more than doubled ---
from $36.2 million in 2008 to $80.4 million in 2017.
Trump's budget anticipates the $10 million savings would come through a
reduction in the cost of containing and feeding the animals. The savings also
would include cutbacks involving roundups and contraception programs.
The 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act permits the sale of older,
unadoptable animals. But for years, Congress has approved budget language
specifically outlawing the sale of any wild horses for slaughter.
Horse slaughterhouses are prohibited in the U.S. but legal in many other
countries, including Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe where horse meat is
considered a delicacy.
Then-BLM Director Neil Kornze said a year ago that the horses represented a
$1 billion budget problem for his agency because it costs $50 million to round
up and house every 10,000 horses over their lifetime.
Still, he said the agency had no intention of reversing the long-standing
However, the Trump administration wants a change, saying through the BLM
that the "current program is unsustainable and a new approach is needed,
particularly when overall federal funding is so constrained."
It says the budget would allow the agency to manage the wild horse program
in a more cost-effective manner, "including the ability to conduct sales
BLM rounded up more than 7,000 horses in 2012, but only about 3,000 in each
of the past two years due primarily to budget constraints.
As of March, BLM estimated that more than half of the horses roaming the
range were in Nevada (34,780). An additional 13,191 burros were on the range---
about half in Arizona.
The BLM asserts that U.S. rangeland can sustain fewer than 27,000 horses and
"The original intent of the act was to make sure those animals had a healthy
presence on the range, but also that they be kept at a number that is
sustainable," said Ethan Lane, executive director of the National Cattlemen's
public lands council. "You have horses starving to death ... and irreversible
damage to western rangelands."
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Trump's
budget proposal was shocking.
"Wild horses can and should be humanely managed on-range using simple
fertility control, yet the BLM would rather make these innocent animals pay for
draconian budget cuts with their very lives," ASPCA President Matt Bershadker
Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said
the plan could put the horses on the brink of extinction.
"America can't be great if these national symbols of freedom are destroyed,"