Is the U.S. government complicit in killing over a thousand wild horses?

Laura Rauch/AP

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to disclose whether as many as 1,700 federally protected wild horses now unaccounted for were sold to a middleman who illegally transported them to Mexico for slaughter.

Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., in a letter to Salazar being circulated this week to other lawmakers to cosign, write they are troubled by the department’s lack of response to “legitimate concerns” that the government may have sold these captured mustangs to a “kill buyer,” who then shipped them to a slaughterhouse.

“It is our understanding that this investigation is ongoing,” the letter states, referring to an inquiry by Interior’s Office of Inspector General. But it also says that a number of animal-welfare organizations and worried citizens have been raising concerns, and that “as of today, these citizens haven’t heard from you.”

Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulations, said the two lawmakers want Salazar to provide answers before he leaves the Obama administration. Salazar has said he will leave his Cabinet position at the end of March.

Tom Gorey, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, said Monday that the inspector general has not yet released its findings and that “we don’t know when [the investigation] is going to be done.” But he said it would be wrong to suggest that the bureau sold any of these horses realizing they might be sent to slaughterhouses.

In their letter to Salazar, Grijalva and Whitfield point to a report last September by ProPublica that the bureau sold the more than 1,700 captured mustangs at about $10 a head to Tom Davis, described as a Colorado livestock hauler and a proponent of the horse-meat industry. Salazar is from Colorado and reportedly knows Davis.

“As you are aware, the ProPublica revelations have provoked a substantial public outcry,” the two lawmakers wrote. The letter notes, for example, that in November, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign delivered 25,130 signatures to the Interior Department “from concerned citizens around the country.”

The Bureau of Land Management is the federal agency in charge of overseeing the approximately 31,500 wild horses and 5,800 wild burros roaming federally managed range land in 10 Western states. According to the bureau’s website, these horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, “the agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control herd sizes,” the bureau says.

Since 2004, the bureau has had the legal right under an amendment passed by Congress to sell some of these wild horses.

But Gorey said that, despite the technically unrestricted sales authority of that legislation, known as the Burns Amendment, the bureau has not knowingly sold any of these horses or burros for slaughter and would not do so. He said the rules were tightened in April 2005 to require that the bills of sale contain an explanation by the buyer of what they intend to do with the animals, including a promise that animals bought will not be slaughtered.

Still, no public explanation has surfaced as to what, exactly, happened to the more than 1,700 horses purchased by Davis since 2009--nearly 70 percent of all the horses sold under the program. And animal welfare activists are worried that they wound up on the killing floor.

“We respectfully ask you to give a written response within the next ten days,” Grijalva and Whitfield wrote.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.