Economic pressures revive horse-meat processing
The population of wild horses in the US is hard to manage. Although the thought might be hard to stomach, could using horses for food be a solution?
You'd think the days of wild horses roaming the U.S. are long gone, but there are still an estimated 85,000 here, under the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management.
And they're a huge headache for the bureau, too. Every year, the agency rounds up thousands of the animals in an effort to keep the number of wild horses in check.
"We have a huge problem -- out-of-control populations of wild horses and burros on our public lands," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the Washington Post in 2009. "The problem has been growing and simmering over time, and it's time for us to do something about it that protects the horses, the public lands and the taxpayers."
But what can you do with these animals? They are protected by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act -- which declared wild horses to be "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people."
Adding to the headache is Tom Davis, a 64-year-old livestock hauler who has bought more than 1,700 wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management since 2008, ProPublica reports. That's about 70% of all horses the agency sold.
This is a guy that had this to say in May, according to ProPublica:
"Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt. What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?"
It's not hard to connect the dots here. Davis reportedly signed agreements to not sell any of the horses for slaughter. But ProPublica says animal welfare advocates believe at least some of the horses purchased by Davis ended up in Mexican slaughter houses.
Inspection papers show that Davis sent 765 of those horses to towns in Texas near the Mexican border. As for the rest of them? Davis told ProPublica he found good homes but wouldn't give any paperwork showing where they went.
The BLM encourages the public to adopt the horses it captures. But ProPublica says most of those animals "instead go into a government-funded system of feedlots and pastures that hold more than 47,000 animals -- 10,000 more than are in the wild."
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign says keeping those wild horses off the range and in government care costs taxpayers more than $100,000 each day. And given the ongoing recession and a sustained drought across large parts of the U.S., there are concerns financial pressures may have led to some questionable BLM sales of wild horses.
For its part, the BLM says it "does not and has not sold or sent horses or burros to slaughter." But last week Interior Secretary Salazar announced he will restrict the number of horses people can buy -- and streamline government efforts to prosecute people buying horses for slaughter.
Given America's long love affair with horses, there's been a lot of backlash against the concept of slaughtering the animals for their meat. But late last year, Congress lifted a 5-year-old ban on federal funding for horse-meat inspections in the U.S.
The reason the ban was lifted apparently boils down to basic economics. A Government Accounting Office report noted the slaughter horse market shifted to Canada and Mexico following the ban. As a result, it said, U.S. horse exports for slaughter from 2006 to 2010 increased by 148% to Canada -- and by 660% to Mexico. The report also attributed rising reports of horse abandonment and neglect in the U.S. "to cessation of domestic slaughter and the economic downturn."
There still aren't any U.S. horse meat processors. A New Mexico meat processing plant recently came under bipartisan criticism from state officials when the facility applied to slaughter horses. But there are groups hoping for a return of horse slaughterhouses in the near future.
"I have personally probably five to 10 investors that I could call right now if I had a plant ready to go," Dave Duquette, president of the pro-slaughter group United Horsemen, said in an interview last year with Associated Press."If one plant came open in two weeks, I'd have enough money to fund it. I've got people who will put up $100,000."
While many Americans may be appalled by the idea of eating a horse, equine flesh has been on the menu in Asia and Europe for centuries.
A survey conducted by market research company Ipsos Mori, says the biggest European importers and consumers of horsemeat are in Belgium, France and Italy -- and that the EU imported more than 61 million pounds of horsemeat from non-European countries last year, ”including Canada and Mexico, where most of the horses come from the United States."
But ironically, European officials are now looking twice at any horse meat coming from the U.S. because of the amount of drugs used in race horses. About 80% of the horse meat processed in Mexico comes from the U.S. And the New York Times says up to 15% of U.S. horses sent for slaughter "may have performed on racetracks in the United States."
As for Davis, he admitted sending horses out of Colorado in violation of brand inspection law, ProPublica reports, and faces prosecution by the local district attorney.
Editor's Note: Bruce Kennedy worked for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association from April 2011 to April 2012. Other than his employment in NCBA's communications department, he is not involved in any way in the cattle industry, nor during his time with NCBA did he work on any issues related to the cattle industry's approach to wild horses. He has no relations with the BLM and figures used in this article, regarding the number of wild horses, both free and currently held in U.S. holding facilities, came from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign web site.
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The question is legitimate, and the answer important. In North America, the wild horse is often labeled as a non‐native, or even an exotic invasive species, by most federal or state agencies dealing with wildlife management, such as the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The legal mandate for many of these agencies is to protect native wildlife and prevent non‐native species from causing harmful effects on the general ecology of the land. Thus, management is often directed at total eradication, or at least minimal numbers. If the idea that wild horses were, indeed, native wildlife, a great many current management approaches might be compromised. Thus, the rationale for examining this proposition, that the horse is a native or non‐native species, is significant."
Unfortunately biased views and self-serving agendas such as Bruce Kennedy's have impacted the scape goating of wild horses for too long. Their existence is highly threatened by monopolized cattle gurus and special interests. Lies, deceptive tactics and brainwash propaganda such as inflated numbers and unwarranted "emergency" labels on round ups are monopolizing the "mismanagement" by the very agency assigned to protect. The status of wild horses is a re-introduced native wildlife species. Those not having done their homework and trying to fool the American public, even audaciously claim them being "feral". The deception does not end there. The tax paying public is sponsoring cruelty in the worst: choppers knocking over equines, foals ran to suffer hoof slough, mares aborting and collapsing, stallions breaking necks and legs. The reality is far from what Bruce Kennedy wants you to believe. The hideous inhumane standards are not tales of animal whackos, as advocates are dismissed too often. They are incidents which the BLM hides, and only under public pressure tries to embellish the real facts... Tax payers have been fooled and deceived. Animals suffer immensely. The plight is real, and alternatives are on the table. Craig Downers "Reserve Design Proposal" is a solution. It is the vision to preserve in the wild habitat, with natural predators intact (usually killed by special interests) and leading to self-stabilizing herds as the 1971 Act intended for their protection.
The negative schemes have led a huge propaganda to deceive Americans. It's time you all wake up. You included, Bruce Kennedy.
Hey MSN -- you really dropped the ball on this one -- this needs to be in the Editorial section, not where your readers may be under the impression this biased bit of propaganda direct from the Cattle industry is "real news"
A story, long overdue to be told, reflects the survival plight of America's last wild horses and burros. The proof of their evolution in North America is evident thanks to the works and painstaking research such as Craig Downer’s, a nationally renowned wildlife ecologist who reveals their archeological and fossil evidence and how they contribute to both the ecosystem and humanity.
The very officials charged with their protection have over the course of decades inflicted grave injustices towards these magnificent icons on whose back this nation was built. Special interests have taken over the agenda and whole herds of wild horses have already been extinct, whilst cattle leases are taking over the very habitat assigned to our mustangs by the 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Protection Act.
Mining, drilling and monopolized water control have played a significant role in pushing our last mustangs and burros into extinction. Fairy tales of range deterioration, forage depletion and starvation have greatly added to the deception tactics applied by those assigned to protect these equines. The cruelty inflicted during these stampedes have shocked the .Video footage of foals run to death, mares collapsing under helicopter and stallions breaking their necks... is not a benign affair and certainly the agency does not want you to see.
Most Americans do not know what is taken from them. The mustangs are evicted from their rightful range and our public lands are auctioned off to cattle use. Their damage has far more caused harm on the range, yet the few horses which are enhancing our ecosystem by keeping wildfires in check thru consumption of nutrient-poor, flammable grasses, herbs and shrubs for example - are being driven off by helicopter chases whose inhumane substandard have caused a public outrage. This administration is continuing the same secretive and destructive war on wild horses as Bush started - and Obama's promise on change rings hollow. BLM increases cattle to run on same public lands where they are removing horses, despite a congressional mandate to protect them. BLM ignores its federal mandate to remove livestock from federal horse management areas and if this continues, your grandchildren may never see a wild horse in the American West again. You, the American tax payers, are funding this gross injustice. The likely illegal continuance of these round ups is not only inhumane at best, but is challenged with litigation and increasing public pressure. It is a sad day, when the truth is cleverly disguised to benefit special interests and BLM keeps spending millions to quickly eradicate an irreplaceable piece of American history. Biased press coverage is no help either. The traumatizing of the horses is real; the suffering by cruel treatment a fact, the deaths and killings are not a fabricated John Grisham Thriller, but the story of the reality, which must be told. You and your grandkids deserve to know, and it is high times we do something before it is too late.
The problem is the BLM has fooled the American public into believing their propaganda of we have to save the horses from starving, they are tearing up the range and water supplies. BULL.
Take a look at the pictures the BLM posts of horses being driven in this week and see that considering they live in a arid climate they don't look pretty darn good. Remember these are not show ponies. They are wild animals.
I'm tired of our government official's bald face lies. I'm tired of the abuse, negligence and even the murder of our wild horses. On Monday, December 10th, a 3 year old stud was run for miles chased by a helicopter. Once he was in holding it was noticed he had a club foot...in most cases no big deal after all he was 3 years old and was doing fine in the wild. But the vet determined he wasn't worth anything and killed him.
ARE YOU MAD NOW? I SURE HOPE SO! Their excuse was club foot is genetic and he might have sired another animal with the condition. After doing some research I found that although the leading cause of club foot is hereditary it is extremely uncommon.
Enough is enough. I'm tired of reporters trying to earn a living using sensationalized garbage. No independent fact checking just spew it out there. I'm tired of members of the public spout out the gospel according to Ken Salazar. Whatever the BLM tells you is hogwash.
Slaughtering horses because they are used up at a racetrack, old, neglected, unwanted....sounds like a good reason to get rid of those politicians who support the horrendous torture of horses in concentrated Kill Mills.
Next they will "humanely" kill sick and unwanted seniors, children that "aren't perfect",,,,China provides a way for mothers to be paid to terminate pregnancies by paying them for the T-cells and Stem Cells. Older citizens who have no family die in poverty and China offers a "humane shot" in exchange for a proper burial with respect.
Greed fuels horse slaughter...there is no humane in slaughter .. sending poisoned meat ... to children known to cause Cancer....Remember China and rat poison in baby formula....greed
Whenever I read articles such as this, I wonder about the writer/author. So I googled the name. He may have once been part of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is some way.
Anyone else done any research on it since it seems to be another slanted thought-process.
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