Latest: Investigation proves wild horses were sent to slaughter

Management of the West’s wild horses have proved controversial for decades and spawned rumors of maltreatment.

  • Pryor Mountain wild horses, Montana’s only herd of its kind.

    Brad Purdy/BLM

The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act made the Bureau of Land Management responsible for protecting these iconic Western animals. As of 2012, 37,000 wild horses roamed public lands. The BLM regularly rounds them up and sends them to sanctuaries or holding pens; thousands then go to buyers who promise good homes. Wild horse advocates worry the horses are mistreated or sent to slaughterhouses against agency policy (“Is there a way through the West’s bitter wild horse wars?HCN, 11/19/12).

In late October, an Interior Department investigation justified horse advocates’ worst fears: At least 1,700 wild horses died in Mexican slaughterhouses. Between 2008 and 2012, rancher Tom Davis of La Jara, Colorado, bought truckloads of horses from the BLM, which spent $140,000 to deliver them to him. Davis then sold the horses to “kill buyers” for roughly $100 apiece, making a $154,000 profit. Despite public outcry, federal and state authorities don’t plan to prosecute him.

High Country News Classifieds