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All the missing horses: Are mustangs being sold for slaughter?

What happened to the wild horses Tom Davis bought from the government? The BLM has sold Davis at least 1,700 wild horses and burros since 2009, — 70 percent of the animals purchased through its sale program.... Read more»

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11 comments on this story

Oct 5, 2012, 9:36 am
-3 +4

Davis seems to be a caring knowledgeable game management professional.  The bottom line is that as herds grow, the number of offspring grow.  On limited land the growth must be controlled.

Having had the pleasure of managing three private game reserves in Africa, I can provide the golden rule of wildlife protection…If it pays, it stays!  The philosophical value of the animal kingdom will be overridden in the long term by human hunger and what is perceived as progress.  The pressure of maintaining wilderness areas when needed by growing populations for farms and development can be balanced by sustainability of the benefit of the resource.  Therefore, Humanity must realize the value of animals before their continued existence is assured.  This means that hungry children will always trump natural wildlife areas and will pressure the use of those areas to support humanity.  That is why we cannot afford, for the sake of animals, to waste any food source and increase our benefit from the animal population. 

According to the United Nations, There are a billion people in the world today who do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life.  Since it is not economical to raise horses for meat, there will never be a “horse raised for meat” market.  However, as in the past, the horses that no longer have a useful life can have an end that is not wasted.  No food source should be wasted with a billion people needing food! 

As a youth raised on a farm in Alabama, I remember eating horsemeat in the form of baloney, not because it was the food of choice, but because it was all we could afford.  In addition to the employment of people directly involved in the process as well as those in the aftermarket use of the products, slaughtering is a useful end to the animal’s life that provides value to humanity.  Therefore, slaughter is one method can usefully end a weakened animal’s life while decreasing the pressure on the animal kingdom.  I do respect the right of others to choose how they end the life of the animals they own, but I do not support them trying to force those opinions on those with a different viewpoint or economic situation. Sustainability is the key.  Maintaining the animals while achieving usefulness to humanity.  Look to the private game reserves in Africa for successful examples as to how to accomplish this.  The rich have always had the ability to hire others to perform functions (such as slaughtering and butchering) that they find undesirable.  Because they have be able to isolate themselves from the process of preparing the food they eat, as well as choose the food they eat, they should not begin making rules for those that are less fortunate. 

FSIS DIRECTIVE 6900.2 Revision 2, 8/15/11, The Humane Handing and Slaughter of Livestock, is adequate to provide assurance of the humane handling of livestock.  The anti-slaughter lobby that make statements such as: “horses are not food..period”, have never been really hungry, or have seen people really hungry, and are not looking at the big picture of animal management.  I hope they can eventually understand that the more resources we use, without recycling those we already have, puts more pressure on the animal kingdom and humanity.  Horse slaughter is part of the solution to the management of horses.

If you don’t want them to go to slaughter, then buy them and care for them…without taxing others.

Oct 6, 2012, 9:57 am
-1 +1

Americas Wild Horses and Burros are anything BUT overpopulated.  At best, there are barely 21,000 left and they are disappearing fast.  If the roundups and removals are allowed to continue there will be NO Wild Horses OR Burros left in the United States.  It is their Legally designated land that has disappeared.  More than 22 Million acres have been taken from them and that is a conservative estimate.  WHERE has that land gone and to WHO?
Compiled by Carla Bowers 10/26/11 Revised 11/6/11
For NAS/NRC Study Panel of BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program

All numbers above are verifiable                                                          

22.2 million: Number of acres WH&B have lost since 1971
21,354: WH&B population as of 2/28/11 using BLMs own data & 20% growth model (independent analysis)

Americas legally protected WH&B are not getting a fair share of land, forage & water.

The AML range of 16,000-26,600 for WH&B is too low & threatens the genetic viability & survival of healthy, self-sustaining herds over the long-term.

An independent, state-of-the-art census is required

Oct 6, 2012, 10:13 am
-0 +3

Horses sent to slaughter are treated as though they are already dead when they are still VERY much alive, and it doesn’t end there.

The following are excerpts from:

A White Paper

Prepared by
Veterinarians for Equine Welfare
Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) is a group of veterinarians committed to equine welfare, and as such we support measures to end horse slaughter including passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176).

It is the united opinion of VEW that horse slaughter is inhumane, and that it is an unacceptable way to end a horse’s life under any circumstance. One need only observe horse slaughter to see that it is a far cry from genuine humane euthanasia. From the transport of horses on inappropriate conveyances for long periods of time without food, water or rest to the very ugly slaughter process in which horses react with pain and fear, no evidence exists to support the claim that horse slaughter is a form of humane euthanasia. Rather, it is a brutal process that results in very tangible and easily observable equine suffering.

Despite the presence of federal regulations governing the transport of horses to slaughter,[1] horses continue to suffer immeasurably en route to slaughter. Current regulations are paltry, allowing for horses to be transported for more than 24 hours without food, water or rest. Heavily pregnant mares can be moved to slaughter, as can horses with broken limbs or who are blind in one eye. Further, the regulations only cover the final leg of the journey, so slaughter-bound horses moved from auction to feedlot, for instance, are not covered by the rule.

The use of the captive-bolt gun, which is commonly used in the slaughter of livestock (including horses), has been a point of great contention in the debate on horse slaughter. Because it can theoretically be used by a veterinarian - in specific circumstances to euthanize horses, the AVMA has tried to equate its use in the slaughterhouse with humane euthanasia.

To clarify, the captive-bolt gun is a mechanical method by which, in ideal circumstances, animals can be rendered immediately unconscious (not killed) through a quick blow to the brain by a metal bolt prior to actual slaughter. However, in order for the method to work as intended, the captive bolt must be administered properly. According to the AVMAs own guidelines, the head of the animal to which the captive bolt is being applied must be restrained[2] or still and a highly skilled individual. In the slaughterhouse none of these best case scenarios are in place: the horse is most likely panicked, its head is unrestrained, and the person administering the captive bolt is a low-paid worker who is expected to move horses through the kill line at high speed.

Oct 9, 2012, 11:41 pm
-1 +0

Louie C,
Nice try but your data is flawed.It’s not 22.2 mill acres.
Before you post something check your facts,
I’ll not stoop to accusing you of your political views. Now look at the situation with eyes wide open. I’m not sticking up for Mr Davis, or what he’s been loosely accused of doing.
But how long should the Feds continue to dump money on a lost cause?
The only way the situation can be resolved is getting the private sector involved, in any way it can. Adopt a couple dozen yourself if it’s so close to your heart, Otherwise the Feds should repeal the 1971 law and (I’m gonna be blunt here) send the meat to europe where it’s on many menus.
Herd management is the key, just like it is for deer and bison populations all over the USA.
I appologize if I’ve offended anyone,
There are countless other programs the Feds need to worry about maybe privatization of the program is what is needed.

Oct 10, 2012, 7:31 pm
-0 +0

The facts have been checked and rechecked. If anything, there are FEWER WH&B left in the wild than when these figures were compiled and presented to the National Academy of Sciences. Many more have since been removed from their Legal Herd Management Areas.  Please provide verifiable data to the contrary:

  Compiled by Carla Bowers, 10/26/11,
            Revised 11/6/11
For NAS/NRC Study Panel of BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program ALL NUMBERS ARE VERIFIABLE
21,354 WH&B population as of 2/28/11using BLMs own calculations
The Numbers

-  38,500: BLM reported total of WH&B population (as of 2/28/11, not validated)
-  26,600: BLM high AML (appropriate management level) for WH&B population
-  16,000-18,000 BLM actual current targeted low AML for WH&B population
-  21,354: WH&B population as of 2/28/11 using BLMs own data & 20% growth model (independent analysis)
-  240,000-480,000: Approximate head of livestock on WH&B management areas
-  Up to 3M livestock on BLM lands
-  Up to 1.5M livestock on USFS lands
-  20 million mule deer, 1 million elk, 700,000+ pronghorns, 70,000 bighorns (considered a species of concern) on Federal, state & private lands
Compiled by Carla Bowers,10/26/11, Revised 11/6/11
For NAS/NRC Study Panel of BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program
-  All numbers above are verifiable                 -  245 million: Number of acres BLM currently manages
-  160 million:  Number of BLM acres allocated to livestock use
-  53.8 million: Number of BLM & private acres originally designated for WH&B in 1971
-  31.6 million: Number of BLM & private acres currently managed for WH&B
-  22.2 million: Number of acres WH&B have lost since 1971
-  27 million:  Number of BLM acres currently allocated to WH&B use (with livestock)
-  11%: Amount of BLM land currently designated for WH&B use

-  83%: Amount of forage allocated to livestock in BLM WH&B areas
-  17%: Amount of forage allocated to WH&B in BLM WH&B areas
-  339: Number of BLM original Herd Areas designated for WH&B in 1971
-  179: Number of BLM reduced-size Herd Management Areas currently designated for WH&B
-  160: Number of WH&B Herd Areas BLM has zeroed-out

-  193 million: Number of acres USFS currently manages
-  91 million: Number of USFS acres allocated to livestock use
-  2 million: Number of USFS acres allocated to WH&B use (with livestock)
-  1.04%: Amount of USFS land currently designated for WH&B use
-  650 million: Number of Federal land acres
-  4.5%: Amount of Federal land acres (BLM/USFS) designated for WH&B use (with livestock)

  Costs to Taxpayers:
-  $75.7 million: FY2011 total cost of BLMs WH&B Program
-  $11.4 million: FY2011 cost of roundups, including fertility control
-  $48.2 million: FY2011 cost of BLM warehousing WH&B
-  $766,164: FY2010 cost of BLM WH&B census & range monitoring (3.3% of budget)
-  $144-500 million:  FY2011 cost of livestock grazing program
-  $13 million:  FY2011 cost of predator control program to benefit livestock

Compiled by Carla Bowers, 10/26/11, Revised 11/6/11
For NAS/NRC Study Panel of BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program
All numbers above are verifiable                         (over)

- Americas legally protected WH&B are not getting a fair share of land, forage & water.
- The AML range of 16,000-26,600 for WH&B is too low & threatens the genetic viability & survival of healthy, self-sustaining herds over the long-term.
- An independent, state-of-the-art census is required.


- Considering the above numbers, is it fair to claim WH&B are overpopulated in America?
- Why is livestock allocated the majority of forage on WH&B legal areas?
- How does BLM arrive at AML for WH&B versus livestock on WH&B legal areas?
- Is WH&B genetic viability & survival of healthy, self-sustaining herds considered at all in AML establishment?
- Shouldnt the above requirement be the first consideration in WH&B AML establishment before forage allocations are set on WH&B legal areas?
- What is the best mechanism to correct the insufficient & unfair allocations between livestock & WH&B on WH&B legal areas?
- How is damage to the range studied exactly & how much time is dedicated to monitoring?
- How is it determined unequivocally what animals did any range damage, i.e., WH&B, livestock or other wildlife?

Oct 10, 2012, 7:36 pm
-0 +0

More Facts:


Oct 10, 2012, 7:48 pm
-0 +0

For those who like mathget out your calculators.  Excerpts from:
To summarize my current understanding of BLMs newest incorporation of this decades long peer-reviewed method they have recently begun waving around to try and explain the unexplainable with respect to their historical crazy population estimates is its really just a very complicated computer modeling program the average Joe hasnt got a chance of sorting out. We are just going to have to take their word for it. Swell.

The other thing that the average Joe can also deduce from the newly adjusted numbers is, the computer modeling determined only a 98 horse difference between what was directly counted in the raw data and adding estimations for wild horses that were missed by the observers in the plane. This equates to only a 2.3% difference between the direct counts and the added estimates, at least during this particular survey.

Here we watch BLM mushroom the 172 wild horses from the Fox Hog HMA to an estimated 726 and this was before USGS made the little tweak to revamp the estimate to 300 wild horses.

But it doesnt stop there. The High Rock HMA goes from a direct count of 300 to BLMs new number of 747 and Massacre Lakes jumps from 148 to 220 as well. All totaled, BLM reports they are projecting to gather 1,735 wild horses from the High Rock, Fox Hog, Massacre Lakes and Wall Canyon HMAs next fall.

So, I tried to see if there were any way to make BLMs numbers work with real world math and big surprise, no matter what I tried, it just didnt fly!

First, I totaled the Tri-State wild horse population (just from the July raw count data as BLM had yet to see the results of Program MARKs estimation when they released the Preliminary FY11 Gather Schedule). The results from the survey of the four HMAs were merely 707 wild horses.

So then I padded the official HMA populations by adding the entire 430 wild horses the Tri-State Survey cited as outside CA HMAs to this total. Yes, all the wild horses from the entire CA area. This brought it up to 1,137 wild horses.

Next, I subtracted what BLM was projecting to gather (1,735 wild horses) from what the Tri-State Survey had counted for these same HMAs (but also included all wild horses reported in the survey as outside now totaling 1,137 wild horses).

Then I tried adding a 20% reproduction rate to the original raw count of 1,137 wild horses because next spring will cause populations to go up - but the 20% reproduction rate couldnt even come close. Okay, how about a 25% reproduction rate? Still not even in the ballpark. The fact of the matter is, the only way BLMs numbers would jive is by adding a 52% reproduction rate to the wild horses found in the Tri-State Survey. And dont forget, BLMs estimate includes foals and weanlings that arent even capable of reproducing yet!

Oct 10, 2012, 9:46 pm
-0 +0

So you are Quoting Gov’t numbers, I’m not impressed. I don’t believe the gov’t is telling the truth. I don’t trust the gov’t & I work for the gov’t. my concern is,..... again I refer to my original post.I noticed that you didn’t even address which I am reposting thats where I’d like you address:

“The only way the situation can be resolved is getting the private sector involved, in any way it can.
1 Adopt a couple dozen yourself if its so close to your heart,
2 Otherwise the Feds should repeal the 1971 law and (Im gonna be blunt here) send the meat to europe where its on many menus.
3 Herd management is the key, just like it is for deer and bison populations all over the USA.
I appologize if Ive offended anyone,
There are countless other programs the Feds need to worry about maybe privatization of the program is what is needed.

More importantly what would “YOU” do to fix the problem? While being a good steward of the taxpayer’s money?

Oct 10, 2012, 9:57 pm
-0 +0

These are numbers derived by computations done by individuals who DO NOT work for the government.
The problem that must be addressed is that of ACCOUNTABILITY.

As for Good Stewardship, there is a much better and more fiscally sound solution.  This format does not provide for a live link, but I will post it for anyone who is interested:

Wild Equine Herds could and should be managed on the range, by implementing a comprehensive ON THE RANGE/RESERVE DESIGN management program:

Oct 10, 2012, 10:58 pm
-1 +0

In response to your previous post and request….

I accept your apology.

Oct 11, 2012, 5:43 pm
-0 +0

@Louie C

You can use the URL button to easily create a link.

Sorry, we missed your input...

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Dave Philipps/ProPublica

A lone mustang who escaped the helicopters watches a Bureau of Land Management roundup in the Stone Cabin Valley in Nevada during the winter of 2012.


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