Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Reps. Buchanan & Lujan Grisham Protest Horse Slaughter

Oct 3, 2016
Press Release
Call Fed Proposal to Exterminate 45,000 Horses “Monstrous”

WASHINGTON — Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) sent a letter today to the Interior secretary warning the department to abandon plans to exterminate 45,000 wild horses in the western United States. Buchanan and Lujan Grisham are two of the leading animal welfare advocates in Congress.

The Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recently recommended that more than 45,000 wild horses be exterminated or put up for sale – a plan that could result in many of them being transported to Mexican slaughterhouses.

Although the department said it does not intend to follow the board’s recommendations, Buchanan and Lujan Grisham urged the secretary to closely monitor the situation and guard against backsliding into an extermination policy.

“The Bureau of Land Management needs to find another herd management method that doesn’t involve killing 45,000 majestic wild American horses,” Buchanan said. “The department needs to permanently reject the monstrous and unacceptable recommendations of its advisory board.”

“The BLM is charged with managing wild horse populations, which should emphasize humane herd management techniques,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “The recommendation of this advisory board is an abdication of that responsibility. I am encouraged by BLM's decision to reject the board's recommendation and I strongly urge the Department to maintain this position and ensure these wild horses will not be euthanized or put at risk of slaughter.” 

Buchanan received the U.S. Humane Society’s Legislator of the Year award for 2015 for his strong animal welfare record. Lujan Grisham also is a strong leader in Congress on animal protection issues.

“It is disgraceful that this Board, whose purpose is to provide sound advice on the management of wild horses, would even consider euthanizing these horses as a plausible management technique,” the Congressmen said. “We strongly urge the Interior Department to not only reject but denounce the Board’s recommendations.”

Buchanan’s strong record of standing up for animals includes introducing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, bipartisan legislation that permanently bans the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico to be sold around the world. He also fought to stop U.S. slaughterhouses from killing horses for human consumption. 

The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is comprised of representatives of interest groups and the public and was formed in order to advise BLM and the Forest Service on wild horse policy formulation. Board members are appointed by the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture. The charter for the Board outlines responsibilities including the protection and management of wild free-roaming horses and burros.

Please see letter below.

The Honorable Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior

United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

The Honorable Neil Kornze

Director, Bureau of Land Management

Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell and Director Kornze:

We were shocked to hear that the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended that the Department of Interior (DOI) consider euthanizing 45,000 wild horses or offering horses for sale without limitation. It is disgraceful that the Board, whose purpose is to provide sound advice on the management of wild horses, would even consider euthanizing these horses as a plausible management technique. We welcome recent statements by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that you will not euthanize or otherwise put the horses at risk of slaughter, and we encourage the agency to maintain this position and seek other herd management techniques.

For the past 20 years, BLM has relied on rounding up horses from the range as a primary population management strategy, and the agency now has more than 45,000 horses and burros in holding facilities as a result. Upon reviewing the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Management program, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2013 asserted that roundups and removals contribute to high horse populations on the range.  The NAS instead recommended that BLM increase the use of fertility control methods on the range. However, in fiscal year 2015, BLM only used fertility control on 469 wild horses – less than .01% of the 56,000 horses on the range. By continuing to remove horses from the range to manage population, population growth rates are actually increasing through compensatory population growth from decreased competition for forage. Future removals are then necessary to maintain population levels.  

Furthermore, following the Board’s recommendation and offering horses for sale without restriction opens the door for the slaughter of wild horses – a horrifically cruel practice that is opposed by a majority of Americans. Horse slaughter cannot be conducted in a humane manner. Horses are shipped for long periods of time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response, which makes accurate stunning difficult. As a result, horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment; this is rarely a quick, painless death. Congress has stopped the slaughter of wild horses since 2009 by preventing the BLM from using federal funds to send any American wild horse to slaughter.

We strongly urge DOI to reject the Board’s recommendations and hold true to your statement that these horses will not be euthanized or put at risk of slaughter. We urge the agency to follow NAS’s recommendations to increase the use of immunocontraception – a solution that benefits horses and taxpayers alike. We also request that the agency commit to a timeline for the expansion of immunocontraceptive use on rangelands in the West and report back to Congress on their progress.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.