The 37,000 wild horses roaming the West's public lands strain ecosystems, ranches and taxpayers alike. Despite fertility drugs designed to lessen their numbers, today, more mustangs live in captivity than in the wild, costing the Bureau of Land Management about $76 million annually. Slaughter and hunting may be the clearest solutions, but public outrage makes the feds reluctant to pursue them ("Is there a way through the West's bitter wild horse wars?", HCN, 10/12/12).
Now, the West's first horse slaughterhouse since 2007 is raising a ruckus in New Mexico. Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos gained approval this summer for his facility in Roswell, N.M., but threats to De Los Santos' family, suspected arson in late July and an Aug. 2 lawsuit by animal rights groups have delayed the opening. The Navajo Nation backs the slaughterhouse, saying that although horses are sacred in Navajo culture, the reservation cannot manage the tens of thousands of feral equines that wander its lands.