The Latest: battles in the West's bitter wild horse wars

  • Nevada BLM

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.

Penelope Blair
Penelope Blair Subscriber
Aug 13, 2013 06:49 PM
This sickens me, but some how it seems fitting that the slaughter house will be in Roswell. I lived there for four months in 1990 where there were 23,000 head of dairy cows. The stench was awful and I felt so sorry for the cows living without shade in 116 degree weather on manure piles. I passed one dairy leaving my parents townhouse and I would see the cows grooming each other, and more often than not, licking open wounds on each other. Then in the mornings there was the lovely and overwhelming stench of cow manure and oil and natural gas. Gag! I pray that no slaughter takes place!
Nancie McCormish
Nancie McCormish Subscriber
Aug 13, 2013 07:10 PM
Better business?

Surely as a "civilization" we can do better than this.
Steve Stapp
Steve Stapp
Aug 13, 2013 07:42 PM
BLM Hogwash...there are no where near 37,000 wild horses that remain on the public lands. They do not strain the ecosystem it is strained by laws imposed by Congress that required Multiple Use of Public lands although it is a direct violation of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. Lands intended for the use of wild horses and burros were not to be included in this Multi Use Policy. Livestock were not to be on the land yet by bending the rules the Feds allow hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep to steal the forage intended for the horses and burros. It's the LAW that is being broken and straining the ecosystem NOT the horses and burros.

As to your slaughterhouses 80% of the We The People do not want them here nor do we want any animals shipped to a foreign country for the same barbaric end. And before you say what about all the excess horses...think about the 4 to 5 million dogs and cats that are euthanized each year and compare that to 170,000 horses that get shipped to a tragic inhumane end each is it we can euthanize dogs and cats and can't horses if they're such a problem? Slaughter is not humane euthanasia!!!
mary mccracken
mary mccracken Subscriber
Aug 13, 2013 07:54 PM
As a life long horsewoman I support slaughter facilities for horses. Only a few horses will be cared for in old age, when unsound, or just not wanted. Humane horse slaughter facilities would eliminate much suffering. That's just the fact of it.
Steve Stapp
Steve Stapp
Aug 13, 2013 07:57 PM
So why can't you euthanize?
Chris Mason
Chris Mason
Aug 14, 2013 08:17 AM
Because the drugs contaminate the meat
Joy Jamison
Joy Jamison
Aug 14, 2013 09:19 AM
Lynn Jamison

Yes, slaughter of animals with due respect for them is alright and should be part of the answer with the feral animal problem. We are simply insane to not send the horse meat to countries like France where people find eating horse to be just fine. After all, don't you remember that "The French don't care what they eat just so they say it correctly"
Krista Langlois
Krista Langlois Subscriber
Aug 14, 2013 03:58 PM
Erny Zah, Navajo Nation's spokesman for the president, made an interesting point during an interview, but I wasn't able to fit it into this brief piece. He said that the current situation has compelled Navajo Nation to manage wild horses at its own expense, which often means rounding up the horses and selling them. Sometimes they go to Mexico, where they are slaughtered in facilities that are far less regulated than comparable facilities in the U.S. would be.

-Krista Langlois, HCN Editorial Intern
Adam Neff
Adam Neff
Aug 14, 2013 06:22 PM
Yummm, horse steaks on the 'barbie
Monika  Courtney
Monika Courtney
Aug 14, 2013 10:54 PM
This country is out of control with breeding. Not just horses, but dogs/cats who pay the ultimate price for an ignorant society at best. Regulate this excess breeding, increase registration fees and rethink the throw-away approach. The public health threat of adulterated meat is another significant component that is dismissed. Educate we must. Horse slaughter can't be implemented humane. Since there is no profit –driving the pro-slaughter minds to exploit and continue the irresponsible, cheap dumping grounds of slaughter and looking the other way, an American trademark. SOLUTIONS
Stop over-breeding, irresponsible breeding, (introduce incentives for quality over quantity breeding); License stallion owners; even a “nominal” fee might help deter irresponsible breeding practices; Increase brand inspection fees and use funds for low cost gelding and end of life (humane euthanasia via a licensed vet) programs; Strengthen cruelty statutes and ensure enforcement; Connect animal control officers with qualified rescues for impound/seizure assistance so there is no excuse to not remove abused horses;
Develop horse related businesses to take in former slaughter bound horses (therapeutic riding centers, riding academies, guest ranches, trail riding organizations, equine assisted therapy programs, wounded warrior military programs, youth camps, etc.);
Develop quality intern/apprenticeship programs; Support/develop more programs like CO. Front Range Equine Rescue’s “Stop the Backyard Breeder” and “Trails End” programs;
Improve tracking of stolen horses and prosecute offenders;
Educate on responsible horse care; Provide hay banks, Educate on re-homing of horses (safe advertising, networking); Develop businesses which offer burial/cremation services;
Educate on injury prevention and rehab services to improve a horse’s chance to return to work, even modified; Develop prison/community service programs to help with re-training of horses.
Know that humans are the problem, not the horses
Monika  Courtney
Monika Courtney
Aug 14, 2013 11:00 PM
There is, and never was, humane slaughter. The shocking violations in past slaughter plants are documented and it is one of the most predatory industries.
Slaughter is not the answer. The mentality of DISCARDING must stop. It’s a well-known fact that even in the good ol’USA inspections were seriously lacking to ensure any aspect of “humanity” which indeed does not exist, but is a big word for propaganda purposes. This country is out of control with breeding. Not just horses, but dogs/cats who pay the ultimate price for an ignorant society at best. Regulate this excess breeding, increase registration fees and rethink the throw-away approach. The excuses of pro-slaughter folks do NOT reflect a responsible desire to find a morally feasible solution, but embellish their agenda with misleading fairy tales of humane euthanasia, which slaughter is not. The public health threat of adulterated meat is another significant component that is dismissed and reflects the very ill-minded principle of pro-slaughter action.
To see how a modern country like the US resorts to such backwards dealings and trends of animal cruelty, which it clearly is, like it or not – is worrisome and shameful.
Furthermore the finger pointing blame-game of labeling anyone opposing this very propaganda as animal rights terrorist just demonstrates the lack of intelligence and the profit-driven tunnel-vision on the factual substance of the matter.
The serious public health threat of horse meat is evident. Horses are not raised for human food consumption and the presence of toxic drugs makes horse meat even dangerous enough to be banned from dog food.. Bute, Clenbuterol, PBZ (horse aspirin, widely used for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds) Stereoids and Banamine… are not a cocktail to be fed to unsuspecting humans. Also the risk of a potential Trichinosis outbreak is unsconscionable. People do not eat horses in America, period. Neither should people in other countries! If the pro side’s bloody lust for horse flesh would indeed be initiated by a concern for the “welfare” of horses…, one can wonder why the country so vehemently opposes such ideas. There are alternative solutions, horses need no slaughter plant, only a second chance.
Hay banks, special programs within rescues, cost-reduced humane euthanasia (administered by a licensed vet) or programs such as the Arizona Dept of Agriculture’s Equine Rescue Registry -[…]/
are available
It is the strong position of VEW members that absent any formal regulation or structure by the United States with regard to medications and food safety withdrawal schedules for equines entering the food chain, horsemeat derived from any U.S. horse can never be regarded as safe for human consumption.
Furthermore, VEW member veterinarians strongly object to the AVMA and AAEP position in favor of horse slaughter for human consumption. For the AVMA and AAEP to condone the human consumption of meat derived from equines that have not been raised or medicated in a manner consistent with food safety regulations is, in our opinion, unethical, disingenuous, and dangerous.
Monika  Courtney
Monika Courtney
Aug 14, 2013 11:09 PM
BLM has caused a self-induced crisis in which the animals pay a price. I went to the "workshop" in Reno, to push for better comfort for the suffering horses in holding PVC. It was a farce at best. Structured with delphi technique and no chance to give input, the outcome was a public who was manipulated once again. The tour thru PVC was disturbing. Here my input to BLM: I have 4 horses and prepared good input, yet I was not given much an opportunity to present it.
I am building more backup by real experts who actually know all aspects of equines, such as Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM of NY, whose extensive curriculum vitae I enclosed in my package. The deplorable conditions and lack of welfare cause concern and must be dealt with. National experts are taking note.
Ms.Talbot, the suffering is real. I have seen a lot, as I network rescue and work cruelty and starvation cases of horses. The neglect at PVC to their welfare and basic needs is so bad, it cannot be accepted. I will do anything in my power to continue to push for change. I'd like to see BLM using a new sensible and honest approach, making tax payers proud. The BLM's existing structures at PVC over hay stacks proof that BLM does not need a scientific excuse to understand what we are talking about. To be oblivious to the horses BLM stuffs in holding to be neglected is a concern that will not go away, but grow nationally and stronger, as I am just beginning to expose the disregard, deter tactics and suffering in these feedlots.
I hope you looked over the package I gave you. I will email the 5 DVM recommendations again, just in case. More are to come. Dr. Nancy S. Loving, who worked at PVC with BLM, agrees these animals are at risk of heat stress / stroke. She and the other equine experts I contacted, supplied real recommendations, not opinions such as Ms. Stull, that simply make no sense to justify the atrocious lack of current times' infrastructure. All letters I brought clearly express concern over PVC or holding in general. Some good public suggestions were brought, such as Greg Hendrick's of Carson City - Solar panels for shade could demonstrate how the increased heat pattern challenge (and it's real, weather charts supplied and conversations had with NWS) can be addressed with creativity and innovation.
I come from a country that leads in innovation. It is home to the highest number of Nobel laureates per capita in the world. I believe America must tap into the pressing issues at hand such as self-sustainability of herds on the range, secure a compassionate approach to holding which would make animals more adoptable, PVC less dreadful, staff more fulfilled and valued as to their work. Perhaps Ms. Stull ought to spend more time on researching this concept. Or in her realms of research, find real sustainable solutions that meet the basic and rightful needs of animals in these prisons. Partnerships with solar panel companies would illustrate how innovation can contribute to improvement with return opportunities. I do not believe it takes an Einstein or excessive R&D investments to give the suffering horses at PVC and in other holding increased comfort, which they deserve.
Canopies exist in Ridgecrest. Massive roofs exist over hay stacks at PVC. I do not buy the approach of Ms. Stull to deter from real increased comfort to all horses in holding, by solely suggesting for shade over sick pens to appease the public. BLM has a commitment to these animals and to us. BLM must foster the adoption of humane standards long ago. This requires a change in attitude to collaboration with the public which this workshop was not. I for one, spent over 600 bucks to come and be "heard", as my contribution felt important to me for the betterment of the suffering horses.
In my recent correspondence to BLM leadership, I have also suggested misters and windblocks for winter, a basic need of comfort. Horses turn their butts to storms. At PVC they have nothing. The modest sprinkler is not sufficient. Any living creature seeks relief and protection from harsh elements. The conditions at holding are shameful.
BLM must adhere to accepted minimum care standards while these animals are in their care or release them. The current situation resembles hoarding and worse. As the fatality reports at PVC also cause concern to their accuracy, the distrust of the public will be further manifested if real relief is not created soon as common sense and increased global heat patterns demand. The closed facility of Broken Arrow leaves for concern and does not convey transparency.
The ongoing round ups in the face of sequester but to delay erection of simple and very doable canopies to all horses in holding is not reform. We are tired of the empty promises. So are the horses. Please do what is right and do it soon. I offered to help raise funds if needed.The workshop's structure was to leave us with little effect as to "engage" and leave constructive ideas etc. To apply delphi tactics to an audience who travels at their own dime to help effectively "brainstorm" is as insensible as the allover treatment by BLM to the horses. I prepared a well rounded package with info, and I am glad you asked me for one.
I hope to hear back with news that reflect suggestions by noted DVM's and adhere to modern humane standards, currently absent at PVC and other holding, forcing animals to endure stress, depression and agony. BLM must do better. We want to see a real departure from past ways, as Ms. Guilfoyle mentioned. Animal welfare is indeed not a new concept, and BLM must take it into consideration based on reputable experts who know equines and their needs. Plenty such resources are available.
Monika Courtney, CO.
DVM recommendations
Monika  Courtney
Monika Courtney
Aug 14, 2013 11:20 PM
 I attended the workshop in Reno, to push for more humane treatment to the suffering horses in holding. Increased heat patterns (NWS data charts), DVM letters and heat stress info were compiled. The horses at PVC in NV suffer. There is no shade / relief from any elements. The foals literally bake to death. Ground temps were 154F. Air 103. After exposing the suffering which is real, some in the public traveled to Reno. It was a farce and structured in the delphi style technique. The horror in those hoarding facilities I will never forget. It is alarming how an agency can assure the public they do their "job"... while their budget pie is so unbalanced and allocated to more round ups and none for more on the range sensible management practices. Wild horses enhance the ecosystem. They reduce wildfires. They do not damage like cattle. Read Craig Downer's book "The Wild Horse Conspiracy" He is a well known wildlife ecologist who studied the range for 40 yrs. Wild horses are demonized by cattle and special interests. Find the truth. The statute of animal welfare in NV requires shelter. Yet, these animals are forced to endure miserable lives in open pens with nothing. I have seen hooves 8 inches long, curled up like duck feet. I would be cited for abuse if that was my horse. But the feds assure us they do theirs on the books... there is no policy handbook for holding. The lies never end. Americans are increasingly concerned over the inhumane treatment. For more info, contact me on facebook. Thanks.
Monika  Courtney
Monika Courtney
Aug 14, 2013 11:22 PM
Jake Smith
Jake Smith Subscriber
Aug 15, 2013 01:51 PM
Will someone who believes that there's a moral reason to exclude horsemeat from human consumption ( as opposed to cows , chickens , pigs , dogs , fish ad infinitum ) please tell me how many angels can dance on the head of a pin ?
Mike Roddewig
Mike Roddewig
Aug 15, 2013 08:20 PM
Finally a reasonable solution for the feral horse problem. While I'd rather not slaughter horses if we didn't have to, I think it's the best and most environmentally-friendly solution available. It's a shame the BLM can't do the same.
Daniel Mears
Daniel Mears
Aug 30, 2013 11:50 PM
This is outlandish! The horses would be terrified from a mile away. I own horses and they are highly aware of what is going on and whether people are being kind or not. I was at a ranch once when a foal (baby horse) was born and the first time the baby was trotted down the row with its' mother all of the other horses were lined up like "Lion King" to get a look at the new baby and whinnie their approval. It was absolutely beautiful the awareness and appreciation they all seemed to have. I own 40 acres of raw land in the Mojave Preserve maybe they could hold a few out there if they need to. I am certain that people could find a way other than slaughtering them to "manage" these beautiful creatures.