By KATI WEIS
COLORADO (KCNC) — Saturday, wild horse advocates gathered in more than 20 states, including Colorado, to demand better protections for America’s mustangs. In particular, advocates are pushing for Congress to reconsider the SAFE Act — a bill that died in committee this week that would have banned the horse slaughter pipeline.
The Save America’s Forgotten Equines Act would have made it illegal to ship horses out of the country to be slaughtered and sold for meat. Currently, it’s illegal to slaughter horses in the U.S., so advocates would like to see that loophole closed.
“There is no way right now to humanely slaughter a horse, they have a long neck, they can move their head away from the bolts,” said Terri West Hall, an organizer of Saturday’s protest.
This year, thousands of mustangs will be rounded up and removed from the wild. This summer, more than 700 horses were removed from Colorado’s Piceance Basin.
Once the mustangs are removed, they then get sent to holding facilities, and from there, many are adopted out. Those that don’t get adopted end up in long-term holding.
Sometimes, the wild horses that are adopted end up in slaughter auctions.
The advocacy group the American Wild Horse Campaign says 1,020 wild horses and burros were sold at slaughter auctions in the U.S. in the last 22 months, according to public records the organization obtained.
“It’s astounding that this is continuing to happen and nothing’s being done about it,” said Grace Kuhn with the AWC. “It’s egregious, and these are federally-protected animals. They have the same federal protection as the American Bald Eagle.”
She believes the Bureau of Land Management’s Adoption Incentive Program — which gives adopters $1,000 to take the wild horses — is only making matters worse.
“I think the primary reason why the adoption incentive program is landing horses in kill pens is because of this cash incentive. You cannot allow people to take on wild animals with the outcome of getting money,” Kuhn said. “So, we believe that the BLM should be eliminating the cash incentives, and if they would like to incentivize adopters to take on wild horses and burros, then they can do that through veterinary vouchers for their care, or training vouchers to gentle these animals so that they’re handable, but giving them $1,000 per horse is completely irresponsible.”
The Bureau of Land Management has said wild horse roundups are necessary because there aren’t enough resources for the horses, but as CBS4 Investigates reported in May, those lands are also shared by private ranchers who are allowed to graze their cattle and sheep there.
Public records show the BLM will spend more than $137 million dollars on its wild horse program this year. West Hall says taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to subsidize ranching, at the expense of the mustangs.
“I’m trying to make as much noise as I can,” she said.
Some veterinary groups are against the SAFE Act.
A spokesperson with the American Veterinary Medical Association issued this written statement to CBS Colorado about its opposition:
“Our concern is that the legislation does not deal with the larger issue of what to do with unwanted horses and fails to address how and where unwanted horses will be placed. The legislation does not provide the financial resources necessary to create the infrastructure and provide veterinary care to the thousands of horses impacted by a ban on processing horses. Thus, it actually would negatively impact the welfare of unwanted horses, and increase their numbers.”
The BLM has not yet responded to requests for comment on this story.
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