Congress Votes to Protect Wild Horses from Slaughter

Wild horses in the United States received a reprieve on May 19, when the House voted in favor of an amendment to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from selling wild horses and burros to commercial entities.

An amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill bars the BLM from using funds to sell wild horses or burros at auction, which, in turn could be sold to slaughter, according to Nancy Perry, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. Under the current adoption policy, BLM retains ownership of wild horses and burros for one year before the adoptee can be resold.

"The House had a unanimous vote in favor of the amendment that states wild horses can not be sold to slaughter," Perry said. "Horses 10 years old or older or those that have been put up for adoption at least three times are required to be sold (under current legislation). This (the amendment) says you can't do that."

A similar amendment was proposed last year, but it was removed by U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT before the bill's final approval. Perry is concerned that when this year's amendment goes to the Senate for a vote, Burns will strip the amendment from the bill again. "Senator Burns is the committee chair, and the chances are excellent that it will be removed again," Perry said.

As for domestic horses, earlier this year, the USDA announced a fee-for-service system that would allow horsemeat processing plants to pay for post-mortem inspections that are required to process the meat. According to the USDA, the system was necessary because an amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations bill removed funding for the inspections.

There was speculation that a similar amendment would be added to the 2007 spending bill, which has already passed in the house (spending bills have to be approved annually). However, an amendment was never added. Instead, Perry said, anti-slaughter advocates are pushing a separate bill, HR 503, which would provide a more permanent end to horse slaughter. It is currently in the Energy and Commerce subcommittee awaiting a vote.

Predictions are all over the board as for when it will come to a vote. "It could come up anytime," Perry said. "It could be next week, or it could be ignored until the end of the year. We don't know."

There are several organizations that oppose a ban on horse slaughter if there isn't a plan for managing the influx of unwanted horses. In May, the Animal Welfare Council published a white paper that discusses the possible consequences of a ban on horse slaughter without having first addressed the issue of unwanted horses. (To view the white paper go to

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for .

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