By Nicole Rivard
America’s wild horses being gunned down for no reason would have been a national disgrace. That’s why FoA pounded the pavement the last several months and visited with Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to discuss the plight of America’s wild horses.
The stakes were high.
So, you can imagine the sighs of relief around the FoA office when we found out Congress heard us and our supporters and did not allow that to happen. The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package it passed maintains the ban on U.S. horse slaughter by continuing the prohibition for federal funding of USDA horsemeat inspections.
This is the consolidation of the House and Senate versions of Agriculture and Interior Appropriations bills we were hoping would pass.
But there is still work to be done because this could all change again in six months. Plus, the potential slaughter of domestic and wild horses in this country looms because while it remains illegal to slaughter horses in this country for now, it is not illegal to ship them to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
In 2016 alone, 114,091 homeless horses were transported out of this country for slaughter for human consumption, and that is typical of recent years.
The pipeline is being fed by indiscriminate overbreeding by organizations such as the Jockey Club and American Quarter Horse Association, and on a smaller scale, irresponsible horse owners.
That’s why we need to get the Safeguard American Food Export Act (HR 113) passed. It was reintroduced this year.
Since polls show between 70 and 80 percent of Americans are against horse slaughter, you’d think that would make it a done deal, but it’s not. That’s because ranchers, certain factions of the horse industry — like the American Quarter Horse Association and the racing industry — are the ones who have lobbyists and a presence in Washington. They are talking to politicians.
Rest assured, FoA will continue to do the same, and we will rally our members to do the same—if every person makes it a point to personally call or handwrite a note to their representatives in Congress, and to meet with them, it could help.
Public backlash matters too. Exposing the truth about these pro-slaughter government agencies and breeding associations can go a long way in raising awareness about the crucial part of this issue—indiscriminate overbreeding.
It’s also important that the Bureau of Land Management, which treats wild horses like pests because it is wedded to cattle and sheep ranchers, knows we’re aware what they are doing.
The BLM snatched 150 wild horses from within and adjacent to the Three Fingers Herd Management Area in Malheur, Oregon in 2016 after a brush fire swept through the northern portion of the area. The horses were then subjected to a life of imprisonment at the Wild Horse Corral facility in Burns.
They thought they could say it was “an emergency action” and avoid the National Environmental Protection Act.
But FOA was watching, and Monday we achieved a significant victory for wild horses in Oregon and throughout the nation.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled that BLM violated federal law when it ordered the emergency roundup. Judge Simon agreed with FoA that BLM’s decision to permanently remove these wild horses was made without compliance with proper environmental analyses. Instead, BLM relied upon on outdated analysis and significantly exceeded what was required to protect the horses and the land from the immediate impact of the fire.
While this is a tremendous victory, FoA will not be satisfied until the wild horses at the Wild Horse Corral are returned to the Three Fingers HMA Area. We saw with our own eyes that there is a great abundance of appropriate forage that has sprung up throughout the HMA (herd management area) due to record-breaking precipitation that the area received last year.
It’s not shocking to realize that the BLM has an extinction plan for wild horses, but it may come as a surprise to some that the American Quarter Horse Association is the biggest betrayer of America’s domestic horses. The Texas-based AQHA is the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization, but its pro-slaughter stance is hidden behind its Americana image and glossy feel-good photos on Instagram. It is a major force on Washington. They spend a lot of money promoting horse slaughter. But nobody knows.
When people join, they actually are really proud to say they are a member of the AQHA, an ‘all-American’ organization.
But the AQHA has a reason for being pro-slaughter. Because for every horse that is slaughtered, there’s a need for a new foal. And registration of new horses is their main source of income.
Not surprisingly, the number one breed sent to slaughter is the American Quarter Horse with the second being thoroughbreds.
We need to take horse slaughter off the table in this country because it rewards people for being irresponsible. It’s time to force people to take responsibility for the horses they are supposed to care of for the entirety of their lives. Let’s make America great by stopping the killing of our wild and domestic horses.
Nicole Rivard is editor of Friends of Animal’s quarterly magazine Action Line. She brings 18 years of journalism experience to the front lines, protesting and documenting atrocities against animals.