Documents Reveal BLM Secret Plan to Destroy Wild Horses

wild horseby John Holland and Vicki Tobin, Founders, Equine Welfare Alliance, reprinted with permission 

CHICAGO, (EWA) – The Cloud Foundation reports documents obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) via the Freedom of Information Act by a Phoenix-based non-profit, The Conquistador Program, reveal shocking and detailed plans to destroy healthy wild horses in government holding and in the wild on public lands.

BLM employees and a USDA veterinarian held weekly "Implementation Team" meetings beginning in July 2008 in which they discussed and developed strategies to rid BLM of thousands of mustangs. In October, they completed a 68-page document titled "Alternative Management Options." Tactics included in this document are reminiscent of those used to wipe out Native Americans in the 1800s.

The BLM team created scenarios for killing mustangs using barbiturates, gunshots or captive bolts. Bodies would be disposed of through rendering, burial or incineration. They discussed killing 1200-2000 wild horses per year. Minutes from the Implementation Meeting state "increased support from public relations and management staff would also be needed to insulate those doing the actual work from the public, media and Congressional scrutiny/criticism."

"These meetings and the Draft Plan reveal what amounts to ‘the final solution’ for the American mustang," states Ginger Kathrens, filmmaker and Director of The Cloud Foundation.

Division Chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program, Don Glenn told The Cloud Foundation "no decision has been made to move forward on a large scale with this plan, yet."

Meeting minutes speak for themselves: "Security at facilities and at gathers would need to be increased to combat eco-terrorism. Having the people that are willing to put down healthy horses at gather sites could be a problem."

During meetings, Team Members formulated ways to circumvent laws, asking, "how many could be euthanized during a gather without having NEPA?" and discussing ways to avoid the federal carcass disposal law. Conversations included how many wild horses could be rendered at a Reno plant or "disposed of in pits".

Kathrens has spent 15 years documenting wild mustangs, chronicling the life of the wild stallion, Cloud, for PBS. "Even Cloud and his little herd in Montana are in serious danger if BLM implements these options," she continues. "A massive round up is planned for this herd beginning August 30, 2009."

The BLM will not guarantee that Cloud will remain free.

More information, BLM documents and photos available from:

The Cloud Foundation, Inc.
107 South 7th St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80905

Congressional Leaders Send Message to Bureau of Land Management

Healthy wild horse sent to slaughter"Don’t Even Think About Killing America’s Wild Horses and Burros"

Washington, D.C. (December 4, 2008) – Joining with a growing public chorus of outrage at a recent proposal by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and their Wild Horse Advisory board to euthanize up to 33,000 wild horses, several leaders in the US House of Representatives sent a letter to the agency stressing their strong opposition to any such effort.

Congressman Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and Congressman Raul Grijalva, chairman of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee sent a letter to James Caswell, director of the Bureau of Land Management.

The chairmen said, "We continue to be concerned about your agency’s proposal to deal with problems facing the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program by defaulting to a policy of mass euthanization of thousands of healthy horses. As recently as November 17, the Wild Horse Advisory Board and the BLM continue to support mass euthanization, even considering options to expand sale authority in ways that will lead to the extermination of more horses.  The policy is not a solution – it is a failure."

This powerful letter comes on the heels of an announcement by Madeleine Pickens in which she as stepped forward to provide a permanent and safe home to those horses in BLM holding facilities to ensure they are not killed as the agency tries to balance its books.  "Mrs. Pickens is one of the most generous and compassionate individuals I have ever known," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of Government and Legal Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute.  "Mrs. Pickens is acting out of pure selflessness.  She has been a long time fighter for America’s horses and her commitment to protecting these national treasures is historic."

In 1971, the American public and US Congress had to come to the rescue of America’s wild horses who were being wiped out by the BLM by enacting the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  Thirty-seven years later, they are both coming to aid of them again from the mismanagement by the very same agency.  There are many other options in dealing with wild horses on public lands and AWI will be working closely with Congress and other organizations to ensure the Agency is fixed so our horses and the public are not in this situation in a few years.


submitted by Animal Welfare Institute 
PO Box 3650
Washington, DC  20027
Tel:  (202) 337-2332 ~ Fax: (888) 260-2271

For over 57 years, AWI has been the leading voice for animals across the country and on Capitol Hill.  Please join us in our ongoing campaigns to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. Sign up for AWI eAlerts to receive the latest news on what you can do to help us protect all animals:

Thanks to Your Protests, BLM Delays Decision to Kill Wild Horses

Update:  August 26, 2008 The BLM has delayed until later this year or perhaps next a decision about whether to begin euthanizing wild horses. 

After announcing euthanasia as a solution to increasing costs of caring for wild horses, the BLM was inundated with more than 11,000 emails, 2-1 in favor of letting the horses live.

The BLM holds about 30,000 wild horses in pens. Another 8,000 are awaiting adoption.  About 33,000 remain free. Critics wonder why the BLM is holding any wild horses at all other than to placate ranchers who lease federal land for virtually nothing to graze cattle.  The ranchers don’t want the horses living free on federal land they believe should be preserved for their cattle they raise for slaughter.

For more on this, read Texas Horse Talk.  

Click here for more on the bill pending to restore protections to wild free roaming horses and burros and how you can help pass it.

For more on the BLM’s proposal to euthanize healthy wild horses, read the AWI report below.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 2, 2008) For the first time in the history of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) the federal agency charged with protecting and managing wild horses in the United Statesofficials now claim that up to 30,000 horses currently in confinement may have to be euthanized to balance the agencys budget.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) vehemently opposes any proposal that would sanction the mass killing of our nations wild horses. To set the record straight, euthanasia is mercy killing. Thats certainly not whats being proposed here by any stretch of the imagination, said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. Its killing pure and simple to balance the books for an agency whose reckless management has caused immeasurable harm to a national treasure at considerable cost to the American taxpayer.

In the last few years, the BLMs national wild horse and burro program has changed leadership and directionand tragically, wild horses have paid the price. To placate the demands of livestock interests and despite protests from wild horse advocates, the agency began rounding up animals from the wild at an unprecedented rate, leaving many herds with so few animals that their long-term health and viability are now in serious jeopardy.

Adoption demand could not keep pace with such drastic removals, requiring the BLM to contract for more and more private long-term holding facilities. Today, this misguided policy has shockingly resulted in more animals being held in confinement than run free in the wild. Now, BLM officials are seeking a magic bullet for the problem that they have irresponsibly created adding a whole new subtext to the expression They Shoot Horses, Dont They?

The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed unanimously by Congress to stop the mass slaughter and commercial exploitation of these magnificent animals. Americans were outraged to learn what was happening then, and they will be even more irate to learn what the BLM is proposing today, Heyde said. Public support for the original Act is considered one of the largest grassroots campaigns on animal welfare issues in US history. It is time to reignite this passion if we are to save these magnificent animals from extinction on the range and in the wild.

The proposal to resume killing the publics wild horses will be discussed at the next National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting scheduled for September 2008. AWI encourages the public and the US Congress to act swiftly to protect our horses, whose lives are at risk at the hands of the very agency tasked with the responsibility to care for them.

[Don’t let slaughter be an option for BLM in managing the wild horse population. Click here for information on how you can help pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act in Congress and here for information about how you can help pass the bill to restore the protections  of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.]  

For over 57 years, AWI has been the leading voice for animals across the country and on Capitol Hill. Please join us in our ongoing campaigns to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. Sign up for AWI eAlerts to receive the latest news on what you can do to help us protect all animals:

Christopher J.Heyde
Deputy Director, Government and Legal Affairs
Animal Welfare Institute
PO Box 3650
Washington, DC 20027
Tel: (703)836-4300 ~ Fax: (888) 260-2271

Run for your lives!

 By John Holland (reprinted with permission)

Bring in your children and potted plants and barricade your  door…they’re coming! No, it is not Al Qaeda or even the Iranian  Revolutionary Guard. The abandoned horses are coming and the destruction will be biblical!

 At least that is the message of sensationalized articles appearing all over the country. They warn that horses are being abandoned because of the closing of U.S. horse slaughter plants, and because of the severe hay shortage in much of the Southeast.

An AP article by Richard Cockle of the Oregonian carries the headline  /Abandoned horses pose dilemma for ranchers/, while another AP story quotes the executive director of the North Carolina Horse Council as saying an estimated 120,000 horses have been abandoned already.

A month earlier, Dave Russell in the /Yankton Press and Dakotan/ put the estimate of unwanted horses at "212,000 and counting!" And an official from the American Horse Council was quoted in a Dallas paper as saying owners would soon be abandoning 312,000 unwanted starving horses because of the recent closing of three U.S. horse slaughter facilities.

Betsy Scott of the /Northern Ohio News Herald/ even offered up an image of horses ruining our next outing by cantering across our picnic blankets! As proof, Scott quoted a horsewoman as saying that the President of the Ohio Horse Council had reported horses being abandoned in the state’s parks.

But before you head for the basement with an armload of groceries, you  should know that this is, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "deja vous all over again." In 1998, California banned horse slaughter and almost immediately a series of stories popped up about horses being abandoned in the desert, just as the slaughter proponents had warned would happen. Unfortunately nobody could /find/ the horses.

In February, the two Texas horse slaughter plants closed after a long  court battle with the state over a 1949 law prohibiting the sale of horse meat. Within weeks AP college basketball stringer Jeffrey McMurray did a shocking investigative report that was published around the world with titles such as /Kentucky, land of the thoroughbred, swamped with unwanted horses!/

The McMurray article was based on horses seen free grazing at a reclaimed strip mine in Eastern Kentucky. The only problem was that the horses were all privately owned and had not been abandoned. The Kentucky State Police and animal control officials immediately debunked the McMurray story but it raised such a furor that Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher responded with a letter saying it was "filled with inaccurate statements and information."

Undeterred by these denials, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a leading horse slaughter proponent, sent the McMurray article to its member veterinarians as proof that they had been right all along about the dire effects of a ban on horse slaughter.

So were these stories more of the same? After extensive research, our findings indicate that confirmed cases of abandoned horses rank somewhere between the number of sightings of the Lock Ness monster and those of Big Foot, but without the solid photographic evidence.

Starting with the story about the horses becoming such a "dilemma" for Oregon’s ranchers one has only to read beyond the sensationalized  headline to see it was based on a staggering nine (9) horses that had shown up at a ranch in Oregon. More tellingly they had shown up over a 24 month period, putting their appearance at the ranch before the U.S. slaughter plants were even closed.

But the Oregonian story has worse problems. Horse abandonment is a crime, and Cockle quoted Malheur County Undersheriff Brian Wolfe as saying he tried to determine the owners of such animals but that they were rarely branded. This implied that Wolfe had investigated the  incident. When contacted, Wolfe said he knew nothing of the situation.

Official reports showed only three cases involving horses since 2005; a case of an injured horse found on an abandoned property with other animals, a case of a horse carcass dropped at a gravel pit and a report of an abandoned horse which was determined to be unfounded.

So our investigation turned to those picnic wrecking horses being turned loose in the Ohio parks. The President of the Ohio Horse Council responded to our enquires saying that he never made the statement on the record but that he had "heard" that horses had been turned loose in the Perry Forest. Perry Forest officials said that no horses had been abandoned there.

Next we checked with every agency in North Carolina that governs forest or park lands and found no record of abandoned horses. So we contacted the North Carolina Horse Council about their claim. They were helpful but could only recall that the number (actually 90,000) had come from the American Horse Council, possibly as an email that "probably no longer existed."

By this point we had estimates ranging from 90,000 to 320,000 abandoned horses and most seemed to be attributed to the American Horse Council. I contacted Sara Chase, the AHC Director of Communications to ask how the estimate/s were made and which estimate was correct. Ms. Chase stated for the record that neither the AHC nor their Unwanted Horse Coalition had ever put out a number, and that none of those quotes should have ever been made!

Meanwhile, Harper’s Magazine quoted Pat Evans of Utah State University  Veterinary Sciences Department as saying that more horses are being abandoned now that the slaughter houses were closed. But when asked for her sources Dr. Evans declined to disclose them. So we contacted every appropriate state agency in Utah. We found no documented cases of abandoned horses there either.

Unfortunately, the impression that all these baseless stories and their tabloid style headlines convey persists long after they are disproved. If you can produce enough smoke people will believe there has to be a fire, and as Joseph Goebbels observed, people will believe a big lie sooner than a small one.

Ironically, even if these stories were true they would tell us nothing about the impact of closing the horse slaughter outlet because it has not been closed. American horses are merely going over the borders to slaughter in Mexico and Canada in nearly the same numbers (down just 17%) as before the closings.

The question is what is likely to happen when Congress passes HR.503 / S.311 and really ends the slaughter of our horses? To predict that  future we have only to look at the past, and it is this historical record that has the pro-slaughter forces pumping out smoke screens because it directly contradicts their fear mongering.

For example, in 1989 the USDA reported 379,571 American horses were slaughtered or exported for slaughter. By 2002 that number had plunged to just 77,713 as a result of reduced demand for their meat. There was no government sponsored rescue effort and no documented increase in either neglect or abandonment.

Likewise, when the Cavel horse slaughter plant in Illinois burned on Easter Sunday in 2002, it took about 40% of U.S. horse slaughter capacity off line for over two years. Yet, the year after the fire the number of cases of abuse and neglect reported by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (which had doubled in the three years before the fire) actually went down.

None of this is to say we are not facing a hard winter, but horse owners have seen worse. "Last year in Texas we had a horrible hay shortage when stocks were depleted by the commercial suppliers," said Steven Long, author, and Vice President of the Greater Houston Horse Council. "Not only did we suffer a hay shortage, we had a frightening water shortage when the stock tanks dried up. Yet I don’t know of a single case of an abandoned horse."


John Holland is a freelance writer and the author of three books. He frequently writes on the subject of horse slaughter from his small farm in the mountains of Virginia, where he lives with his wife, Sheilah, and their 10 horses.