Wild Horses Deserve Better Treatment

Mustangs Under Pressure On Public Land

I drove out of Phoenix this week and stumbled across some small herds of wild horses. It’s been years since I last saw mustangs in Colorado. This treat really recharged my own spirit.

I’ve always loved horses. I rode competitively as a kid in small western events. I showed my horses in 4-H until I switched to sports. Then I grew older and grew away from my horses and I still regret it to this day. Like others, I just ignorantly assumed life was good for the horses of the world, while I spent my time defending abandoned kids and endangered species.

slaughter horse in U.S.

Fortunately, more of us have been called to action by the horse advocates. Like you and others, I’ve been actively advocating against horse slaughter and against the BLM stampedes by bounty hunters in helicopters–followed by horrifying conditions in holding pens (see photo below). But something about seeing these beautiful animals again through new eyes inspired me to push even harder for reforms that will end the abuse of the animals and the taxpayers. If everyone could see these magnificent creatures living unbridled lives in the wilds of the West–especially the policymakers in Washington, DC, who seem to be blind to the public will and the best use of public funds.

Unfortunately, the majority of mustangs are not roaming free like this mare and yearling above (but they must fight for their lives every day). Thousands of mustangs are locked up in stark corrals with no break from the wind or the subzero nights like those in the photo below. They don’t have a fighting chance. It’s totally up to their caretakers and mother nature.

It’s a complicated issue. But we’re talking about public lands and public property. We’re talking about taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize the private interests of a few oil and gas companies, agricultural interests and a few hunters. We have a wild horse and burro program that is misguided at best. Even the National Academy of Sciences has recommended ending the program and the Government Accounting Office has documented the waste. The time for reform is now.

Wild horses held by the BLM.

It’s the age of austerity in America. Make the next cut at BLM. Save lives and taxpayers dollars by ending the wild horse and burro cleansing program. These horses were here before the white man stole the land the first time. Write to the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. Tell her what you think about animal abuse and taxpayer abuse for the enrichment of private interests. Reach her via Twitter @SecretaryJewell

I applaud the warriors who defend our mustangs, wolves and other wild creatures around the world. Hopefully, government policy will shift to represent the will of the people, while standing against abuses of animals and taxpayers.

wild horse roundups

Finally, my big adventure this week reminded me how important it is for us to see animals in their natural habitat to really connect. We need to understand the threats that our expanding human footprint is putting on our diminishing wild spaces. Thanks to all of those dedicated souls who risk life and limb to photograph and film the amazing creatures in our world in ways that inspire us. May we all stay connected with the wild places and the wild creatures that Mother Nature/Almighty have created. May we all be better defenders and neighbors in the future.

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting wildlife conservation. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Wild Horse Roundups Don’t Work

Cattle Industry Driving Wild Horses Off Public Lands

Editor’s Note: The United States spends millions of taxpayer dollars every year terrorizing wild horses and burros on public lands in the West. They are stampeded for miles by low-flying helicopters. Those that aren’t killed or disabled in the panic await an equally horrific fate. Hopefully, a new report will help put an end to the waste of money and life.

Domestic terrorism on public lands must stop.

A scathing independent scientific review of wild horse roundups in the West concludes the U.S. government would be better off investing in widespread fertility control of the mustangs and let nature cull any excess herds instead of spending millions to house them in overflowing holding pens.

A 14-member panel assembled by the National Science Academy’s National Research Council, at the request of the Bureau of Land Management, concluded BLM’s removal of nearly 100,000 horses from the Western range over the past decade is probably having the opposite effect of its intention to ease ecological damage and reduce overpopulated herds.

By stepping in prematurely when food and water supplies remain adequate, and with most natural predators long gone, the land management agency is producing artificial conditions that ultimately serve to perpetuate population growth, the committee said Wednesday in a 451-page report recommending more emphasis on the use of contraceptives and other methods of fertility control.

The research panel sympathized with BLM’s struggle to find middle ground between horse advocates and ranchers who see the animals as unwelcome competitors for forage. It noted there’s “little if any public support” for allowing harm to come to either the horses or the rangeland itself.The report says the current method may work in the short term, but results in continually high population growth, exacerbating the long-term problem.The American Wild Horse Preservation Fund, a national coalition of more than 50 advocacy groups, said the report makes a strong case for an immediate halt to the roundups.“This is a turning point for the decades-long fight to protect America’s mustangs,” said Neda DeMayo, president of the coalition’s Return to Freedom. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is among the livestock groups that have voiced support in the past for aggressive, increased use of fertility control but remain adamantly opposed to curtailing roundups. Ironically, the trade group has long pretended to be in support of multi-use policies. Horse advocates themselves are not united behind the idea of stepping up use of contraception on the range.

“We are grateful that the National Academy of Science recommends stopping cruel roundups, but we challenge their decision to control alleged overpopulation like a domestic herd with humans deciding who survives and breeds,” said Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs in San Francisco.

The conflict has raged for decades but has intensified in recent years for cash-strapped federal land managers with skyrocketing bills for food and corrals and no room for incoming animals.“The business as usual practices are not going to be effective without additional resources,” said Guy Palmer, a pathologist from Washington State University who chaired the research committee.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said the report should serve as a wakeup call to bring changes he and others in Congress have urged for years.

“These unsustainable practices are a waste of taxpayer money and jeopardize the health and safety of wild horses across the West,” he said.

Source: http://cronkitenewsonline.com/2013/06/wild-horse-burro-roundups-are-costly-ineffective-study-says/

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Horse Slaughter Back In New Mexico

Land Of Enchantment Will Kill Horses

About five miles from this southeastern New Mexico town’s famed UFO museum, tucked between dairy farms, is a nondescript metal building that could be home to any number of small agricultural businesses.

slaughter horse in U.S.

But Valley Meat Co. is no longer just another agricultural business. It’s a former cattle slaughterhouse whose kill floor has been redesigned for horses to be led in one at a time, secured in a huge metal chute, shot in the head, then processed into meat for shipment overseas.

It’s also ground zero for an emotional, national debate over a return to domestic horse slaughter that has divided horse rescue and animal humane groups, ranchers, politicians and Indian tribes.

And Tuesday, it moved one step closer to becoming the first plant in the country in more than six years to slaughter horses, with a successful inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At issue is whether the majestic symbols of Western culture are livestock or pets, and whether it is more humane to slaughter them domestically than to ship tens of thousands of neglected, unwanted and wild horses thousands of miles to be slaughtered in Mexico or Canada.

Front and center in the debate is Rick De Los Santos, who along with his wife, Sarah, has for more than two decades worked this small slaughterhouse, taking in mostly cows that were too old or sick to travel with larger herds to the bigger slaughterhouses for production.

Now, with cattle herds shrinking amid an ongoing drought, De Los Santos says he and his wife are just trying to transform their business and make enough money to retire. They’re seeking to slaughter domestically some of the thousands of horses that De Los Santos says travel through the state every month on their way to what are oftentimes less humane and less regulated plants south of the border.

“They are being slaughtered anyway. We thought, well, we will slaughter them here and provide jobs for the economy,” De Los Santos said.

Instead, Valley Meat has been ensnarled in a yearlong political drama that has left the plant idle and its owners the target of vandalism and death threats – warnings that increased after humane groups found a video a former plant worker posted of himself cursing at animal activists, then shooting one of his own horses to eat.

“People are saying, `We will slit your throat in your sleep. We hope you die. We hope your kids die,'” De Los Santos said. “Sometimes it’s scary. … And it’s all for a horse.”

Indeed, voicemails left on the company’s answering machine spew hate and wishes for violence upon the family.

“I hope you burn in hell,” said one irate woman who called repeatedly, saying, “You better pack your (expletive) bags (expletive) and get out of there because that place is finished.”

The couple have hired security and turned over phone records to federal authorities. They are, nevertheless, surprisingly candid about their plans, offering media access to the 7,200-square-foot slaughterhouse with one kill floor and two processing rooms that De Los Santos says can process 50 to 100 horses a day.

“It’s complicated, this industry of feeding the world,” Sarah De Los Santos says matter-of-factly. The meat would be processed for human consumption and exported to countries in eastern Europe and Asia.

Attorney Blair Dunn says agriculture officials found no issues at Valley Meat Co. during Tuesday’s inspection and told the owners they are recommending a grant of inspection be issued immediately.

The plant passed a similar inspection last year but then was told it couldn’t begin operations until the USDA developed an acceptable test to measure the horse meat for drug residue.

It wasn’t until the plant sued the USDA for blocking its application that the agency earlier this year agreed to move forward with the inspections necessary to allow Valley Meat Co. and about a half-dozen other plants around the country to slaughter horses.

But the Obama administration wants to prohibit such slaughters. The administration’s 2014 budget request excludes money for inspectors for horse slaughter plants, which would effectively keep them from operating.

The USDA did not respond to an email from The Associated Press asking about the inspection process and whether a drug test has been developed.

But Dunn said Department of Justice lawyers repeatedly have assured him that there are no impediments to the plant opening. Dunn says he expects final approval for the plant to come in a matter of days.

Wild horses held by the BLM.

“Everyone is talking about this as a humane issue,” De Los Santos said. “This is not a humane issue. It’s politics.”

Humane groups and politicians including Gov. Susana Martinez and New Mexico Attorney General Gary King strongly oppose the plant. They argue that horses are iconic animals in the West, and that other solutions and more funding for horse rescue and birth control programs should be explored over slaughter.

Fueling opposition is a recent uproar in Europe over horse meat being found in products labeled as beef.

Still others are pushing for a return to domestic slaughter. Proponents include several Native American tribes, the American Quarter Horse Association, some livestock associations and even a few horse rescue groups that believe domestic slaughter would be more humane than shipping the animals elsewhere.

They point to a 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found horse abuse and abandonment increasing since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for federal inspection programs in 2006. Because rescue groups can’t take care of all of the horses in need, tens of thousands have been shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico.

In this mostly agricultural town, touted on its welcome sign as the Dairy Capital of the Southwest, there is surprisingly little uproar over the plant.

“I was against it,” said Larry Connolly, a retiree having coffee at Starbucks last week. “Then I started talking to some ranchers. They said they were for it. So I’m neutral.”

Local horse trader and former rancher Dave McIntosh said opening the plant would be the “best thing for the welfare of horses.”

But Sheriff Rob Coon said he believes most people in town oppose the plant. His office was inundated with calls and emails from irate people after the horse-killing video was discovered online last month. The former Valley Meat worker posted the video more than a year ago in response to animal activists opposed to horse slaughter.

“A lot of the ranchers are for it, simply because they want a place to take a horse rather than starve it out,” he said. “But it’s not our society. We don’t eat horses.”

Coon said his department has met with other local agencies in preparation for protests and potential trouble should the plant get the green light to open. But he clearly longs for the day when Roswell – whose main street is populated with statues of green extraterrestrials – was known for a rumored 1947 UFO landing, and little else.

“I was just telling our county manager: `What happened to our aliens?'” Coon said.

Horse Slaughter News http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130423/us-horse-slaughter/?utm_hp_ref=homepage&ir=homepage

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Public lands and wildlife conservation are among our specialties. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform gary@crossbow1.com.

Wild Horses Ripped From Nevada Rangeland

Nevada Ground Zero In Public Land War

The U.S. government continues to waste taxpayer dollars terrorizing wildlife on public lands. Federal land “managers” have concluded another roundup of wild horses in Northern Nevada with the removal of about 800 animals–some 200 more than planned–citing their poor health and risk of starvation, but the latest such cleansing drew additional criticism. How many of these animals will be sent to slaughter and toward the plates of consumers who think they are eating beef?

wild horse roundup Nevada

Nearly 800 horses were removed from the Diamond Complex north of Eureka during the recent stampede, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials said. The agency claims that it was forced to exceed the original target of about 600 horses because of reduced forage due to last year’s drought as well as stress from recent snowstorms, officials said.

Doug Furtado, manager of the BLM’s Battle Mountain District, said last month’s string of storms forced horses off the mountain and into lower areas that lacked forage.

“Unfortunately, based on the overall poor body condition and lack of forage, and understanding that more than six weeks of winter remains, we decided to remove horses that were struggling or suffering,” he said. “We did the right thing for the well-being of the horses.”

But Anne Novak of California-based Protect Mustangs was skeptical. “They always have some excuse to take wild horses off the range – to make it easier to industrialize our open space,” she said. “They have already taken way too many off the range. If we don’t have enough wild horses on the range we risk losing herds.”

BLM officials said the roundup was necessary to prevent further deterioration of the range and to protect an “overpopulation” of horses that face limited food and water.

Horses removed from the range are supposedly transported to BLM facilities in Nevada and Utah, where they are prepared for adoption or transferred to long-term pastures in the Midwest. Some horses, however, are unaccounted for and are feared to have been sent to slaughter in Mexico or Canada. Horses slaughtered in those countries are destined for the plates of consumers, who don’t always know what they are eating, as documented recently by the horse-meat scandal sweeping Europe.

About half of the estimated 37,000 horses and burros on federal lands are in Nevada.

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform gary@crossbow1.com.