Wednesday, 04 October 2023

Ravenwoode: Saving America’s wild horses from slaughter

In Spring 1997, a nonprofit organization, named Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, published an article in their quarterly newsletter (PEEReview) entitled "Wild Horses to Slaughter.”

This nonprofit was started by US Bureau of Land Management employees who became disillusioned by upper level management decisions, in tolerating and even facilitating the routine and illegal removal of mustangs from publicly owned land. Many of these wild horses were sent to slaughter.

Now alerted to the problem, investigative media began researching the problem. They discovered that Washington lobbyists, working on behalf of the cattle industry, wanted to ensure publicly owned BLM-managed land would be used exclusively for cattle grazing. Cattle ranchers considered mustangs to be a "nuisance." To gain access to more forage, ranchers insisted federal agencies “remove” the mustangs.

With media involvement, the mustang slaughter scandal became nationwide news. As a result, hundreds of nonprofit horse protection advocates and rescue ranches began forming across America. These groups demanded an end to the slaughter of mustangs.

Government oversight of government abuse

The BLM is located within the US Department of Interior. The US Forest Service is housed within the US Department of Agriculture. Both are within, and supervised by cabinet level secretaries, appointed by the president and confirmed by the US Senate. With widespread knowledge of this ongoing corruption, all presidents since 1997 (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now, Donald Trump) have permitted this brutal and illegal horse slaughter to continue in violation of the Wild and Free Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

The legislative authority with oversight over BLM and US Forest Service abuses is the Natural Resources Committee within the House of Representatives.

Fast forward to 2015.

Even after 18 years of media investigation and public commentary on this issue, further examination was warranted. In October, 2015, the investigative journal ProPublica published an article entitled “Missing: What happened to the wild horses Tom Davis bought from the government?” This article described how “kill buyers” operate to purchase mustangs from BLM and US Forest Service round-ups; and detailed the process whereby horses are shipped to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

Because of decades of continued influence from cattle industry lobbyists, thousands of mustangs remain subjected to BLM and US Forest Service annual round-ups. Few are adopted out. Others are shipped to cramped holding pens (where they sit for years at taxpayers’ expense), never adopted or set free. Their ending is obvious. And many others continue to be illegally transported in large double decker stock trailers to out-of-country slaughterhouses; or live air-shipped to Japan, where they are then slaughtered.

It is only through the hard work of a national network of nonprofit horse protection groups and rescues that the public has gained an increasing awareness and insight into this widespread corruption. These groups, along with intermittent, but intensive media investigation, have exposed our government’s long-term disregard for wild mustangs and federal law.

Fast Forward to November 2018.

On Nov. 10, 2018, Lake County News published a letter from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to the US Department of Agriculture (US Forest Service). He stated the US Forest Service roundup of 1,000 mustangs on Oct. 10, 2018, in Modoc County, Calif., was in violation of California law, if such mustangs will be sold under “unconditional” sales agreements.

To be clear, California law allows mustangs in our state, to be adopted out, after round-ups. However, it does not allow horses to be sold under an “unconditional” sales arrangement. And the US Department of Agriculture has already provided notice and their intention, that all mustangs rounded up in Modoc County, not adopted by Jan. 10, 2019, will be sold under “unconditional” sales contracts.

After this date, all unadopted horses will be sold for $1 per mustang. Based on prior histories of government roundups, these horses will be sold to “mysterious” buyers, who appear with large stock trailers. The chances of these horses being shipped to slaughter are almost 100 percent.

Stop the slaughter

Well-intentioned BLM whistleblowers have not stopped the slaughter. Even years of media investigative reporting, which has chronicled widespread abuses, have not stopped the slaughter. Countless nationwide horse protection and advocacy groups, who have mobilized to assist in adoption, have demanded an end to slaughter. And to date, the state of California continues in its determination to stop this institutionalized cruelty. While all these efforts have created a public outrage, they simply have: Not. Stopped. Horse. Slaughter.

Therefore, I am requesting all people who care about animals, and mustangs, in particular, to address this appalling abuse of federal government authority by contacting your elected officials: Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2); or Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5); or Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3).

Demand a full, open and immediate Congressional House Investigation into all undertakings related to BLM / USFS round ups, adoption and mustang slaughter activities, on all lands publicly owned and managed by the federal government.

Regardless of your congressional district, contact Rep. Jared Huffman (CA. 2), ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee. This Congressional Committee directly oversees all activities of the BLM and Forest Service. Firmly demand he use his constitutionally derived authority of oversight to investigate management abuses of mustangs on public lands.

Contact California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and request they file an injunction and lawsuit, to prevent the involved federal agencies from initiating the “unconditional” sales contracts re: mustangs remaining in Modoc County after Jan. 10, 2019.

Boycott beef. There are other sources of protein you can buy which do not support horse slaughter.

Who will benefit: The American mustang, who will be allowed to remain free roaming and protected.

Anna Rose Ravenwoode lives in Kelseyville, Calif. She loves equines.

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