- LTR Blog
- About LTRThis is the History page.
- Contact UsThis is the Contact Us page.
Dept. of Interior Ignored Federal Law, horses ended up in Mexican Slaughterhouse
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, sent a letter today to the Secretary of the Interior demanding to know how 1,800 American horses ended up being butchered at a Mexican slaughterhouse in violation of federal law.
The slaughtered horses were under the care of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which failed in its duty to provide good homes and humane care to the animals, according to a report by the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior.
“It is unacceptable that BLM’s disregard of the law resulted in the use of taxpayer funds to facilitate the inhumane slaughter of iconic American wildlife,” said Buchanan.
The Inspector General’s report concluded that BLM allowed an individual livestock hauler to purchase 1,794 horses between 2008 and 2012. Using intermediaries, he then sold the majority of these animals to slaughterhouses in Mexico for considerable profit. It is illegal for BLM to be involved in any way in the slaughter of healthy horses, including the sale of horses to an individual who then sells the animals for slaughter.
In April 2015, Buchanan introduced the bipartisan SAFE Act (H.R. 1942), which permanently bans killing horses for human consumption in America.
Buchanan has long been a leader in the fight against animal cruelty and has been recognized by the Humane Society as a “Legislative Leader” for his work on animal welfare issues.
Full text of Buchanan’s letter below.
November 10, 2015
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Jewell:
I am outraged to learn that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) illegally sold nearly 1,800 wild horses to a Colorado rancher who in turn sold them to Mexican slaughter plants at a great profit. It is unacceptable that BLM’s disregard of the law resulted in the use of taxpayer funds to facilitate the inhumane slaughter of iconic American wildlife.
In a recent report, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General (IG) found that BLM “did not follow current law” and “also failed to follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring that the horses sold went to good homes and were not slaughtered.”
The report states that BLM allowed an individual livestock hauler to purchase 1,794 horses between 2008 and 2012. Using intermediaries, he then sold the majority of these animals to slaughterhouses in Mexico for considerable profit. BLM received information that the hauler was sending his horses to slaughter, but neglected to thoroughly investigate these claims and continued selling animals to the hauler.
Selling wild horses for slaughter is a violation of law and the Bureau’s own policies.
BLM manages the U.S. wild horse population and is empowered to humanely destroy excess horses. While BLM can sell excess horses to third parties in certain circumstances, the Bureau’s internal guidelines prohibit the sale to slaughterers by requiring buyers to provide good homes and humane care to the animals.
Moreover, during the period investigated by the IG, Congress prohibited BLM from spending funds “for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of [BLM] or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”
Last year, more than 150,000 American horses were butchered in Canada and Mexico and then transported overseas for consumption in Japan, Italy and other countries. Horsemeat can be toxic to humans and these animals can suffer incredible abuse even before arriving at the slaughterhouse. During transportation, they are often confined without food and water in overcrowded trailers. At the slaughterhouse, horses are further inhumanely treated, and are sometimes alive and kicking during dismemberment.
I am also troubled that, as part of this illegal sale, $140,000 of taxpayer money was used to transport horses to the buyer. Moreover, the sale by BLM helped the buyer earn more than $150,000 in profits from selling the horses for slaughter. These are funds that properly belong to the American public.
It is shocking that the employees who sold the animals to the hauler received bonuses for these sales. It is even more disturbing that BLM continued to sell horses to the hauler even after they were given information that he was sending the horses to slaughter. And it is a dereliction of duty that BLM did not attempt to verify the information they received.
BLM must be held accountable for breaking the law.
I respectfully request that the Department of the Interior provide my office with written answers to the following questions within 30 days:
- Please describe the discipline imposed upon BLM employees who facilitated these illegal transactions. If these employees were not terminated, please state why the agency believes it is proper to continue to employ individuals who supported criminal activity.
- What steps are Interior and BLM taking to recover the $140,000 of taxpayer funds use to deliver horses to the hauler?
- Is Interior or BLM taking action to recover the hauler’s profits from the illegal slaughter of the horses?
- Is Interior or BLM taking action to recover bonuses paid to any employees who facilitated this crime?
- Does BLM receive reports that buyers of horses may be illegally selling horses for slaughter? If so, why were reports ignored in the case described in the IG report? Can you say with certainty that reports have not been ignored in any other potential cases?
- The IG report identifies Southwest Livestock LLC as a “kill buyer” that exported 12,000 horses per year to Mexico for slaughter after such activity was banned. Please describe what actions, if any, you are taking to ensure that this company is not engaging in horse slaughter and is held accountable for its illegal activities.
- Please provide your understanding of why federal and state prosecutors failed to take action in the case described in the IG report. In particular, please describe any interaction that employees of Interior or BLM had with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado or the State of Colorado Conejos County District Attorney’s Office with respect to the activities described in the IG report, noting the following:
- Whether any employees testified under oath about these activities.
- Whether any employees were offered incentives for their testimony, such as potential immunity or reduced charges.
- Any family relationships that employees of Bureau of Land Management have with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado or the State of Colorado Conejos County District Attorney’s Office.
I look forward to your prompt response and thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Member of Congress
cc: The Honorable Neil Kornze, Director, Bureau of Land Management
Join the Wild Horse Preservation Project in giving a voice to the wild horses & burros. To help increase public awareness and put pressure on the BLM and decision makers to stop the inhumane roundups, forced removals from federal lands and end slaughter, we need your letters. It’s never been more important than now with the BLM’s admitted and confirmed sale of 1,800 federally-protected wild horses for slaughter and the massive roundup underway in Oregon.
With the massive roundup of 1,400 wild horses underway in Oregon, and last month’s revelation that the Bureau of Land Management had illegally sold nearly 1,800 wild horses for slaughter, now is the time to hold the BLM accountable for its mismanagement and inhumane treatment of our wild horses and burros.
Here is a link to the guest commentary that was written by Suzanne Roy entitled “Wild Horses Need More Humane Management” and published on 11/14/15.
What You Can Do
Please send a letter to the editor thanking the Denver Post for publishing our Guest Opinion and supporting our call for reform of the federal wild horse management program.
- Use this Sample Letter as a Starting Point
Thank you for publishing Sunday’s Guest Commentary, “Wild Horses Need More Humane Management.”
America must do a better job caring for its wild horses. The recent news that 2,000 horses were illegally sent to slaughter in Mexico is just one example.
Currently the Bureau of Land Management spends nearly $80 million annually to roundup up wild horses from Western public lands and warehouse them in government holding facilities.
Two years ago, the National Academy of Sciences advised BLM to use a proven fertility control vaccine as an alternative to removing horses from the range. But the government has largely ignored this advice.
That must change. We don’t need more horror stories about horse slaughter.
In Colorado, we are privileged to have several magnificent, federally-protected wild horse herds. We must use proven and humane methods to manage our wild horses and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.
- Personalize Your Letter by Choosing From These Talking Points
- The horse slaughter scandal is an egregious example how our current system isn’t working.
- Congress bans the sale of horses for slaughter. The BLM broke this rule.
- Thousands of horses are rounded up each year in the West. More than 50,000 are in holding pens and that number grows each year. Adoptions don’t come close to finding homes for horses that have been removed from their land.
- A roundup is currently underway in Oregon will remove 1.400 wild horses from public lands in that state so ranchers can graze more cattle on the public lands there. The roundup will cost American taxpayers nearly $60 million for the helicopter roundup and lifetime warehousing of horses that are not adopted.
- The fertility control vaccine PZP is a humane, scientifically proven and cost-effective way to safely and humanely manage wild horse populations. It prevents pregnancies in mares for up to two years and wears off if horses aren’t re-vaccinated. It doesn’t harm horses or the surrounding environment.
- PZP is used in more than 30 U.S. horse management areas, including three in Colorado. But its use should be more widespread in order to reduce and, hopefully end, roundups.
- In a 2013 report, the National Academy of Sciences advocated more widespread use of fertility control to manage wild horses on federal land.
- Some in BLM resist fertility control in favor of the unworkable status quo. This failure to move forward harms horses, is unsustainable and could ultimately lead to an overturning of the policies that prevent legal horse export and slaughter.
- BLM spends less than 1 percent of its $80 million budget on fertility control, while over 70 percent is spent on rounding up and warehousing horses.
- According to an ASPCA poll, 80 percent of the American public opposes horse slaughter.
- According to an American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign poll, 72 percent of the American public supports protecting wild horses on federal lands.
- It’s time for BLM to end this unworkable system and ensure that horses are treated, and managed, humanely.
- Send Your Letter to the Denver Post
Include: YOUR NAME, EMAIL, PHONE, HOME ADDRESS (newspapers generally only publish the name of your city, but need this additional information to verify the letter is yours.)
Be sure: Your letter is 150 words or less.
Thank you for speaking up for wild horses!
Suzanne & the AWHPC Team
My heart is breaking, and I can hardly see through the tears as I write this. I am so very sorry to have to tell you that we lost Lil Bit today. The picture above is her out on the range.
Matt and I were at a “meet and greet” with Honey Bandit, when I was called out on an injured horse emergency. While I was there, I called Shirley about the injured mare and this is what she told me. She could barely speak and I knew she was beyond devastated.
Shirley did what she promised and stayed with Lil Bit 24/7. She was watching Lil Bit and standing beside her in case she needed help while she was up and walking. All at once there was a “snapping noise” in Lil Bit’s leg, and she crashed, pinning Shirley under her. It took about 40 minutes for Shirley to get free, but Lil Bit was done. She absolutely could not get up again. Doc was on his way and Lil Bit would be set free from the pain and suffering. No one was expecting this, especially not Doc, but apparently she blew out either her ligament or tendon and it was horribly clear that she cannot recover or have any type of quality of life.
We want to thank everyone who stepped up to help this little angel. As I sit here I am physically ill and the tears won’t stop. Sometimes you wonder “why – why do we keep doing this?” Your heart is broken so many times that you think it may not keep beating, and it is nearly impossible to even breathe, the pain is so harsh. The worst part of it is that every time you lose one, it not only devastates you but brings back all the pain of each and every other one you have lost. Sometimes it is just too hard……
On October 23, 1015 I toured the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse Short Term Holding facility referred to as Broken Arrow located on Indian Lakes Road in Fallon, Nevada. I was unsure of what to expect. I have owned and ridden horses my entire life. I am a photographer of wild horses so I spend considerable hours monthly observing and photographing wild horses free on the range. The first time I had heard of this facility I was told by one person it was a “Secret place on Indian Land so they didn’t have to obey the rules.” The impression I was given was that no one knew about the property and it was hidden and all was secretive so horses could go to slaughter without having to comply with federal regulations. I was told there were trucks coming and going in the middle of the night. Only a few months later I was told I could tour the facility and told that there were tours twice a year. The truth of the property appeared quite different from the public rumors. The other people on the tour seemed to have been aware of the facility which opened 6 years ago according to BLM representative John Neil. One couple was from Fallon and they stated that most people in Fallon do not know that facility exists. Churchill County records show most improvements were installed in 2011.
My initial impression when I drove in was that several high fencing obstacles were at the front and seemed to have been strategically placed in this area to prevent the public from observing what is going on at the facility. From the road I would have no idea that there were over 2500 horses on site. I paused and checked my Iphone map to be sure I was actually there. I actually used my binoculars to look around for the horses before I drove into the property.
We are desperately attempting to find placement for two bands of horses recently removed by the Nevada Department of Agriculture from the Virginia Range, who will go to slaughter auction in less than two weeks if we are unsuccessful. Additionally, we have eight horses at Horses Plus Humane Society in northern California who were removed from the Virginia Range by the NDA over a year ago. We have been paying Horses Plus to keep these horses and not euthanize them, however they are moving and cannot take these horses with them.
We are spreading the word far and wide about the need for placing these horses.
Must find placement in two weeks or they will be sent to slaughter auction:
- A family band of ten horses consisting of 2 geldings, 1 colt and 7 mares/fillies
- A band of three consisting of 1 gelding & 2 mares
- A single bachelor gelding
Ranchers who sell beef to Whole Foods Market are behind the largest mustang roundup of 2015-2016 is now underway in southern Oregon. Whole Foods Market is striving toward ethical food sourcing, but there is nothing ethical about the way wild horses and burros are wiped out to make room for more private livestock grazing on our public lands.
The massive roundup under way in Oregon is being conducted specifically due to pressure from the Beatys Butte Grazing Association, so its members can run more cattle on the public lands in the Beatys Butte Herd Management Area, which is a federally designated wild horse habitat. Several members of the Beatys Butte Grazing Association — including its president — market their beef through a cooperative called Country Natural Beef, which is a major provider of beef to Whole Foods Market.
This means that right now, wild horses are being brutally rounded up, removed from their families and their homes on the range, all so that ranchers can profit by selling beef to Whole Foods, which then sells the meat as “grass-fed” to its customers at a premium.
We can stop this by exercising our consumer muscle! Please take a moment to tell Whole Foods that it should not provide a market for meat supplied by ranchers who graze sheep and cattle in wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas (HMAs). Whole Foods must adopt policies that promote protection — not decimation — of America’s iconic wild horse and burro herds.
While we’ve had a few animals adopted recently, the rescue is full once again and I have a waiting list of animals to come in when I have room. I’ve taken back two donkeys I had placed, due to a very sad circumstance, and Sweet William is still waiting for his perfect home. It’s such an ebb and flow, and our adoption numbers are down quite a bit this year from where they have been in years past.
Keeping all of these animals does not come cheap. Feeding and caring for these animals is very costly. We have every animal examined by our vet when they come in – they are brought up-to-date on rabies and tetanus vaccines and have blood drawn for coggins. Any other medical or dental issues found during this exam are also addressed.
Thank you, as always, to all of you who continue to do what you can to support us. Please know that your efforts are very gratefully appreciated and allow us to do what we do – rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home donkeys and mules in need.
See the beauties looking for homes and other ways to help and if you will be in Springfield, MA for Equine Affaire from Nov 11-15, stop by their booth and say hello.
Today we honor the sacrifices that our brave enlisted men and women have made to protect and serve our country. Throughout history, mules have also played an important part, serving alongside soldiers. One occasion where their value cannot be underestimated was the Burma Offensive of World War II. The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) or more commonly known as Merrill’s Marauders was a US Army long-range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit. In addition to its specially trained soldiers, it also included mules.
The mules came from Missouri, Texas and Tennessee and were shipped to Calcutta. They were then transported into Burma by aircraft, and later in the operations were dropped from planes with special parachutes that consisted of an inflatable dinghy (in which the sedated mule would be placed) and attached to a triple cluster of three 28-foot silk parachutes. Mules were capable of being loaded and packed within 20 minutes of landing.
The terrain of Burma (modern-day Myanmar) was almost impossible for vehicles to transport and deliver supplies. Mules are well-know for their sure-footedness, self-preservation and hardiness and were the perfect four-legged soldiers. They packed weapons, ammunition, food and water, medical supplies, equipment and radios through a 700-mile trek of what was considered some of the harshest jungles on the planet.
The men switched between being muleskinners and soldiers and many bonded deeply with their mules by the end of the offensive. One soldier remembered, “We couldn’t have gone half the distances we did and gone half the places we did without the mules.”
Click here learn more about Merrill’s Marauders.
I’ve just returned from the massive Bureau of Land Management mustang roundup taking place in Oregon right now. It’s so difficult to watch these magnificent wild horses ripped from their homes and their families, all so ranchers can graze more cattle on our public lands.
I’ve only had a chance to watch some of my video, but I wanted to share something with you as soon as possible.
The BLM did not want us out there. Our lawyers had to threaten to sue the BLM to force the agency to allow the public to observe each day of the roundup.
I’ve seen thousands of horses being rounded up, and I never forget the look of despair in their eyes after their freedom has been stolen from them. So much fear, so much unknown, which they must now face alone, without their families.
On November 5, 2015, the House of Representatives passed its version of a multi-year national highway bill known as the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 or STRR Act. The bill would reauthorize the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
During the debate of the bill, two amendments were filed that would have eliminated the RTP Program. However, one amendment was withdrawn and one amendment did not receive a vote. The RTP program will continue un-changed if this bill becomes law.
Goliath and Granny Maude have settled in to their new homes and are doing wonderfully. They were two of our “special needs” kids.
Honey, (the Warm Springs foal who lost her mama to slaughter) has also been delivered to her new home in Southern California and is receiving all the love and care one could hope for.
We continue our “community education and sharing program” and were honored to be invited to participate in the Veterans Day Parade. Our rescue supports all veterans and it is an honor to share the day with them, and the smiles Cowboy brought were heartwarming to say the least.
The group of 9 have been delivered to their new home so we are slowly getting the horses placed. However, funds are tight as just getting the 9 horses to their new homes with the legally required paperwork and shipping was over $1500. Bloodwork, health checks etc. can be a bit trickier when you are working with wild horses, and they have to be transported to a special facility so we can get them ready.
We are fighting the weather and as soon as we can we will be transporting 3 of the babies to our place for training and adoption and then 4 others will be heading to their new homes.
Placement of these horses seems to change like the weather, so we always strive to “git ‘er done” as quickly as possible when we have a good home. However, shipping, vet checks, blood work and the other paperwork needed to move these horses to their new homes is taking a huge chunk out of the budget.
At this point we are still hopeful and looking forward to the adoption of the group of 10 which is currently being held up due to the weather and the details are being ironed out at this time.
Matt and I were able to get a really good deal on some culled lumber so we could replace the large hay storage with a smaller building that we will actually be using for shelter so we can take more babies and get them ready for their forever homes.
Right now we are struggling to keep funds going for all of the wild ones and although we celebrate each adoption, the costs are still adding up. Even though expenses can seem high to get these horses transported and placed, it is worth it for them to have a “forever” home. We so appreciate the love and support for these horses and look forward to the day they are ALL safe in those much needed homes. Until then, however, we need to keep feeding and caring for them.
Thank you for your continued support and for sharing this information. Together, we can save these horses.
Please remember we still have mustangs ready for adoption at Chilly Pepper – Miracle Mustang. You are more than welcome to come and visit them. 530 474 5197 if you would like to chat. Our mailing address is Chilly Pepper – Miracle Mustang, 34694 Sidebottom Rd., Shingletown, CA 96088
You can go to Youcaring – https://www.youcaring.com/let-
You can go to Paypal – Palominodancer@yahoo.com or go to our website
www.chillypepper.org if you would like to help us help the horses.
We so appreciate all the love and support you show and for being part of the solution for these horses. Please remember that your donations are tax deductible and what a great write-off :)
Thank you as always for making this happen!
The House of Representatives will begin to debate its version of a multi-year national highway bill, called the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRR Act) (H.R. 3763) this week. The bill would reauthorize the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program (RTP). The horse industry benefits greatly from this program.
However, two amendments have been introduced by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) to eliminate the RTP program. The House could vote on these amendments this week.
Since its inception RTP has provided money for thousands of state and local trail projects across the country, including many that benefit equestrians. RTP provides funding directly to the states for recreational trails and trail-related facilities for all recreational trail users. It is funded with a portion of the gas taxes paid into the Highway Trust Fund by recreational off-highway vehicle users.
The American Horse Council urges all recreational riders and trail users to call their Representative and ask them to oppose the Carter Amendment #69 and the Yoho amendment # 158 or any amendment to the STRR Act that would eliminate the Recreational Trails Program.
On October 29, 2015 Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2015. The bill would make many needed reforms to the H-2B temporary, non-agricultural worker program that will make it less burdensome for employers, including those in the horse industry to use.
The H-2B program is used by members of the horse industry, principally horse trainers and owners who cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs at racetracks, horse shows, fairs and in similar non-agricultural activities. However, On April 29, 2015, the Department Homeland Security (DHS) and Department Labor (DOL) issued a final interim H-2B temporary guest worker program rule and a final wage rule. These rules have made the H-2B program even more costly and burdensome for employers who are forced to use the program. These rules were opposed by theAmerican Horse Council and other industries that rely on the H-2B program.
Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2015
The bill would make several important reforms to the H-2B program and roll back some of the most burdensome provisions of the 2015 H-2B rule. It also would exempt returning workers from counting against the 66,000 annual visa cap. Specifically, the bill would do the following:
- Create an H-2B returning worker exemption;
- Require wages to be based on the job category and experience level required, rather than an artificially inflated the median wage;
- Allow the use of private wage surveys;
- Return the H-2B program to an attestation based process rather than a time consuming and costly verification based process;
- Specify that H-2B employers do not need to provide housing to their workers, allow for payroll deductions for housing in accordance with the Fair Labors Standards Act;
- Specify that for H-2B workers, full time is considered 30 or more hours per week and seasonal need is 10 months;
- Require employers to reimburse H-2B workers for their transportation costs from the consulate or previous worksite to the place of employment after the H-2B worker completes at least 50% of the work contract, as well as require the employer to pay return transportation costs to the consulate or new worksite;
- Allows for staggered crossing of H-2B workers;
- Allow for the replacement of an H-2B worker who leaves the job before the completion of the job term;
- Provides for conditional approval for H-2B workers by DHS once the cap is met so that visas may be issued in the order approved if cap numbers become available;
- Require DHS to publicly post on a website the cap count, the annual number of target beneficiaries, the cap count methodology it is using, number of H-2B visa petitions approved and received during the past five years’ and other items;
- Require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the DHS cap count methodology and its accuracy; and
- Specify that DHS has exclusive authority to issue H-2B rules and final determinations.
Improvements to the H-2B program have been a priority of the horse industry for many years. The difficulty horse farms, horse shows, trainers and others have had recruiting American workers has forced many to use the H-2B program to meet their labor needs, even though it is costly, time consuming and unreliable. This bill would overhaul the H-2B program and fix some of problems that have plagued the program while maintaining protections for both American and H-2B workers.
The American Horse Council supports this important legislation and urges members of the horse industry to contact their Senators to voice support for the bill.
Horses mirror feelings of the people around them.
That’s why Geianne Choate uses equine therapy in clinical psychotherapy sessions.
“I totally believe in the power of a horse to bring about change,” said Choate, a school counselor in Wendell.
She’s used equine therapy since 2004. All of her horses have been rescued from abuse or abandonment. But with Choate’s help, they become healers.
“Many of the horses come to me scared and with trust issues — a lot of the things people struggle with,” she said.
Horses are large, powerful and intimidating. Working with horses gives her clients an opportunity to overcome fear and to develop trust — and self-confidence.
For her students at Wendell High School, working alongside horses provides insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life. As the school’s National Honor Society adviser, Choate put the NHS officers through drills Wednesday at her ranch near Castleford, using her therapy horses to demonstrate leadership strategies.
Wendell senior Casey Clapp quietly monitored the horses’ interaction with the students and the other horses. Clapp is resocializing a rescue horse named Hope for his senior project. Hope will later be used in equine therapy.