Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses

  President and CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses During Reign of Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar  

 10/26/2015 4:49 pm

On Friday, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a damning report about the Bureau of Land Management’s mismanagement of wild horses. The report concluded that agency officials did nothing to prevent a notorious livestock hauler from acquiring nearly 1,800 wild horses and burros over a four-year period and handing them over to kill buyers who sent them to Mexico to slaughter for human consumption. The OIG report exposed the behavior of a Colorado hauler between 2008 and 2012 – overlapping closely with the tenure of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, long criticized for his poor oversight of the nation’s wild horse program. According to the OIG report, the hauler, Tom Davis, allegedly “had farming and trucking connections” with Salazar. The OIG report notes that Davis began gathering horses from the BLM after Salazar took office as Interior Secretary (the BLM program is part of the Department of the Interior and therefore was under Salazar’s control).

Years ago, The Fund for Animals sniffed out the problem of the BLM rounding up horses and then selling them at bargain-basement rates to transporters and kill buyers who shipped them to slaughter plants throughout North America. In response, the BLM reformed its practices, stipulating that no individual could “adopt” more than four horses and burros through the agency’s adoption program. In recent years, as a further safety net, the HSUS worked hard to secure language in the Interior spending bills, further stipulating that no wild horses could be sent to slaughter. That language was included in the 2009 Interior spending bill – the same period during which Davis engaged in his illegal conduct.

The BLM wild horse program has been wracked by mismanagement for decades and in recent years the BLM has gathered more horses from the range than can be absorbed into the adoption system. This has resulted in nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros being held in short-term and long-term holding facilities, with costs associated with this program consuming 60 percent of the agency’s entire budget. It’s become as much a captive wild horse management program as a wild horse program.

We at The HSUS have long advocated for more extensive use of the fertility control vaccine PZP as a way to keep horses on the range and to check the growth of the population as a means of obviating the need for the costly and often inhumane round-ups. The National Academy of Sciences has also took a critical view of BLM’s management and urged the agency to make more common use of the PZP contraceptive vaccine as a means of limiting fertility on the range.

Now, the OIG’s report makes yet another compelling case for why round-ups pose extraordinary risks to wild horses – simply put, the agency has not conducted proper oversight of buyers. In 2012, at a campaign event for President Obama where Salazar was present, a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter asked the secretary about his association with the hauler. Salazar threatened to punch out the reporter, and later apologized for his threat. Putting aside any favoritism that may have been at work, it’s astonishing how one livestock hauler with his background was able to acquire such an extraordinary number of horses. The wrongful sale also cost taxpayers $140,000 to deliver truckloads of horses to Davis, according to the report. He paid $10 apiece for the horses, or less than $18,000 total, and made as much as $154,000 in profits by selling them for slaughter – a different kind of haul for Davis.

Salazar is long gone from the Interior Department, and that’s a good thing for horses and for animal protection concerns in general. It’s now up to Secretary Sally Jewell to get this program on the right track, scale back the round-ups, and aggressively implement fertility control programs throughout the West. These fertility programs work, and the inertia to keep doing things the same old way must end. How many more scandals and reports can this agency endure before it brings fundamental change to this program?

This article first appeared on Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation.


6 thoughts on “Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses

  1. Wayne P wants the DOI to “aggressively” implement fertility controls. Sure he does when HSUS is the registrar of the pesticide that leaves mares infertile after 4 – 5 injections, has horrible side effects, has unstudied effects on future foals and is known to disrupt wild horse families. To counter all this, the BLM needs to take a studied, scientific count of wild horses, needs to return zeroed out public lands for the benefit of wild horses, needs to cut back on licenses to extraction industries. Of course they won’t do this but continue to blame the wild horses instead for reproducing.

  2. You’re so right, Chris. This is not a “wild horse problem.” This is a public lands ranching problem–the public lands livestock industry, which is behind all the slaughter of wild horses, mountain lions, bears, coyotes, wolves, you name them…Until the public understands and gets outraged over what is happening on our public lands, these poor, innocent wild animals will suffer and die. We keep saying it, but not enough people are willing to stand up to the very environmentally -destructive livestock industry. Here in NM, the same thing happens, and the ill-fated Mexican Wolf Reintroduction program is in shambles, because of the politically-motivated actions pushed by this industry. It is a wildlife WAR out here in The West.

  3. Chris, you are also correct about the PZP–the horses do not need “fertility control.” The livestock industry needs fertility control–and it needs to be booted off western public lands!

  4. So, the truth came out about the 1700-plus horses that seemed to have been misplaced by Mr. Davis. Apparently now the BLM has severed its ties with Davis. Big deal! They’ll find a clone, and more horses will disappear.

    The land was meant for the horses, not the ranchers. Funny how the groups with big money organizations always win and the animals always lose.

  5. Their official statement is something like ‘we’ll be sure not to let it happen again.’ As if they weren’t totally involved and aware of it while it was going on!

    Never fear, advocates will be like a burr under their saddles to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, along with a lot of other issues too.

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