Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Bill to Protect Horses Introduced

A new bill has been introduced in the House to ban horse slaughter for human consumption, HR 6598. This version is different from HR 503 and the text of the bill is below, so you can read and make up your own mind. 6598 is an excellent alternative to HR 503, which is stalled in the House Committee on Agriculture.

6598 states clearly that horse slaughter is inhumane, something that welfare advocates and the public who have taken time to know the issue know only too well. Horse slaughter is a brutal and cruel process from the beginning to the end. In auction houses the horses who are destined for slaughter are jammed together in overcrowded pens. Kill-buyers, who obtain and transport the horses to slaughter, are just out to fill a quota and transport the horses without food, water or rest for days. Treating the unlucky horses as if they are already dead. The treatment and killing of the horses in slaughter plants is so horrific that people have become physically ill watching the process.

At this time there are only 12 cosponsors plus the sponsor for a total of 13. Some people believe that we need hundreds of cosponsors for a bill to pass, that isn't true. A bill can pass with little or no cosponsors. What is most important is the votes a bill gets on the floor. However, we need to have as many cosponsors as possible to move the bill forward. Since the bill is similar in goal to HR 503, gaining cosponsors should be fairly easy. Just contact your Congressperson and ask them to support HR 6598. If you don't know who your Congressional Representative is you can go to and enter your zip code to find out.

The issue with this bill is time. We have VERY limited time to get this through the House and Senate and signed by the President before the current session of Congress ends.

The bill HR 6598 has a hearing scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee, sub-committee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on July 31, 2008 at 9:30 am. You can call or fax the members of the committee and ask them to support the bill. Their contact information is below.

Please don't forget to contact your Congressperson and ask him/her to support the bill, HR 6598.

2d Session
H. R. 6598

To amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit certain conduct relating to the use of horses for human consumption.


This Act may be cited as the `Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of


(a) In General- Chapter 3 of title 18, United States Code, is
amended by adding at the end the following:

`Sec. 50. Slaughter of horses for human consumption

`(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly--
`(1) possesses, ships, transports, purchases, sells,
delivers, or receives, in or affecting interstate commerce
or foreign commerce, any horse with the intent that it is to
be slaughtered for human consumption; or
`(2) possesses, ships, transports, purchases, sells,
delivers, or receives, in or affecting interstate commerce
or foreign commerce, any horse flesh or carcass or part of a
carcass, with the intent that it is to be used for human
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three
years or both.
`(b) If--
`(1) the defendant engages in conduct that would otherwise
constitute an offense under subsection (a);
`(2) the defendant has no prior conviction under this
section; and
`(3) the conduct involves less than five horses or less than
2000 pounds of horse flesh or carcass or part of a carcass;
the defendant shall, instead of being punished under that
subsection, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
one year, or both.
`(c) The Attorney General shall provide for the humane placement
or other humane disposition of any horse seized in connection with
an offense under this section.
`(d) As used in this section, the term `horse' means any member of
the family Equidae.'.
(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections for chapter 3 of
title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the
following new item:
`50. Slaughter of horses for human consumption.'

Committee Member Phone Fax Cosponsor HR 503

Chair: John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) 202-225-5126 202-225-0072 YES YES
Rank: Lamar Smith (R-TX) 202-225-4236 202-225-8628 NO NO

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) 202-225-2906 202-225-6942 NO YES
Howard L. Berman (D-CA) 202-225-4695 202-225-3196 NO YES
Rick Boucher (D-VA) 202-225-3861 202-225-0442 NO YES
Chris Cannon (R-UT) 202-225-7751 202-225-5629 NO NO
Steve Chabot (R-OH) 202-225-2216 202-225-3012 YES NO
Howard Coble (R-NC) 202-225-3065 202-225-8611 NO NO
Steve Ira Cohen (D-TN) 202-225-3265 202-225-5663 NO YES
Artur Davis (D-AL) 202-225-2665 202-226-9567 NO NO
Bill Delahunt (D-MA) 202-225-3111 202-225-5658 NO YES
Keith Ellison (D-MN) 202-225-4755 202-225-4886 NO YES
Tom Feeney (R-FL) 202-225-2706 202-226-6299 NO NO
J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) 202-225-6365 202-226-1170 NO NO
Trent Franks (R-AZ) 202-225-4576 202-225-6328 NO NO
Elton Gallegly (R-CA) 202-225-5811 202-225-1100 NO YES
Louie Gohmert (R-TX) 202-225-3035 202-226-1230 NO NO
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) 202-225-5431 202-225-9681 NO NO
Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) 202-225-8203 202-225-7810 NO YES
Darrell Issa (R-CA) 202-225-3906 202-225-3303 NO NO
Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) 202-225-3816 202-225-3317 NO YES
Hank Johnson (D-GA) 202-225-1605 202-226-0691 NO YES
Jim Jordan (R-OH) 202-225-2676 202-226-0577 NO NO
Ric Keller (R-FL) 202-225-2176 202-225-0999 NO YES
Steve King (R-IA) 202-225-4426 202-225-3193 NO NO
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) 202-225-3072 202-225-3336 NO YES
Dan Lungren (R-CA) 202-225-5716 202-226-1298 NO NO
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) 202-225-5635 202-225-6923 YES NO
Mike Pence (R-IN) 202-225-3021 202-225-3382 NO NO
Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA) 202-225-6676 202-226-1012 NO NO
Adam Schiff (D-CA) 202-225-4176 202-225-5828 NO YES
Robert C. Scott (D-VA) 202-225-8351 202-225-8354 YES NO
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) 202-225-5101 202-225-3190 NO NO
Brad Sherman (D-CA) 202-225-5911 202-225-5879 NO YES
Betty Sutton (D-OH) 202-225-3401 202-225-2266 YES NO
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) 202-225-7931 202-226-2052 YES NO
Maxine Waters (D-CA) 202-225-2201 202-225-7854 NO YES
Melvin L. Watt (D-NC) 202-225-1510 202-225-1512 NO YES
Anthony Weiner (D-NY) 202-225-6616 202-226-7253 NO YES
Robert Wexler (D-FL) 202-225-3001 202-225-5974 NO YES

Monday, July 21, 2008

BLM's Proposal to deal with "excess" horses

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has in its infinite wisdom has removed over 75,000 horses from the wild since 2001. While allowing over 4 MILLION cattle to remain grazing on public lands that were set aside for the preservation of the wild horses and burros.

Many of these removed wild horses end up in long term holding facilities. At its best the adoption program could only adopt out between 5,000 to 8,000 wild horses into homes (actual adoption rates fall far short of these numbers, especially in times of economic hardship like those facing the country right now). This means most of the horses removed eventually end up at the long-term holding facilities. It is no surprise to those who follow the issue that there are over 30,000 wild horses in these facilities at a cost to the tax payer of over $26 million a year ($10.9 million for long term holding and $15.5 million for short term holding where many long term horses are housed until they can find a place in one of the overcrowded facilities). At best wild horses are held for approximately 200 days by the BLM before adoption.

Many wild horse advocates have warned over the years that the aggressive removal program that the BLM was advocating would lead to issues such as this, but the BLM was determined to remove as many horses as possible. Shocking, but now the BLM says that they have too many horses in long-term holding! Their solution? To kill all the horses in those facilities. It would save money and it would free up more budget to remove even more horses. So, in a few years there would be an overflow of horses once again who would all need to be shot (they also want to shoot horses on the range so they don't have to remove quite as many horses). With such a plan in place is it crazy for wild horse advocates to say the goal of the BLM to destroy the wild horses?

I should say here that the BLM has authority to euthanize horses under the 1971 law. This authority was given to them to allow them to put down horses with extreme injuries or who were suffering. The BLM already uses this authority to destroy healthy horses with any type of deformity or illness during removals. However, in previous years when they sought Congressional approval or budget for mass euthanasia, Congress has not approved such measures.

A report prepared by American Herds (posted July 9, 2008) says that there are currently so few horses remaining in the wild that they may already be in danger of becoming extinct. The report shows that the process that the BLM uses to estimate the number of wild horses living wild on the range is flawed and their estimated number of 33,000 is off by approximately 20,000. If the report is correct, and the research was intensive and can be checked by anyone who can add, the current number of wild horses residing on the range is closer to 13,500 to 16,000. The BLM says that the Appropriate Management Level (AML) for the range of over 125 million acres is around 25,000 horses. According to the BLM this is the total number of horses that the range can support.

The BLM states that they arrive at the AML by taking a number of factors into account, including range health. According to the BLM wild horses and burros do more damage to the range than cattle or sheep. Wild horse advocates charge that this is a blantant falsehood. I did a simple search on Google and found that even Wikipedia disagrees with this charge. According to Wikipedia "Researchers note that most current Mustang herds live in arid areas which cattle cannot fully utilize due to the lack of water sources. Horses are better adapted by evolutionary biology to such climates.[17]; they may range nine times as far from water sources as cattle, traveling as much as 50 miles a day.[18] This allows them to utilize areas not grazed by cattle. In addition, horses are "hindgut fermenters," meaning that they digest nutrients by means of the cecum rather than by a multi-chambered stomach. In practical effect, horses can obtain adequate nutrition from poorer forage than can cattle, surviving in areas where cattle will starve.[18]"

However, wild horses are blamed for all rangeland degradation. The BLM is in the process of removing wild horses in areas where they are "starving" or because water holes have dried up. In the recent removals of wild horses observers noticed that while horses being removed were fat and fit. In response the BLM issued statements that the horses were being removed under emergency orders because the horses might possibly starve, not because they were.

The BLM also proposes gelding stallions and returning them to the wild. This may sound, on the face, like a good idea to control herd growth, but it has far reaching problems. Gelding stallions would create a problem with herd structures as well as inhibiting herd health and viability. Geldings would suffer greatly in the wild. They would be targeted by unaltered stallions and create an break in the strict societal structure of herd life. In the herd area that is on Nellis Air Force Base the BLM proposes removing ALL wild horses and replacing them with a total gelding herd. This would ensure that when the last gelding died of whatever, no horses would remain on that herd management area. PZP is the preferred method of birth control because it is reversible and allows the animal to contribute to the genetic pool, but with the herds at dangerously low levels in most areas it is not needed at this time. Gelding removes those genes from the pool forever because it is not reversible and it disrupts the herd dynamics to the point of putting the herds in danger on a number of levels. It is simply another way the BLM proposes to remove every horse from the range.

I was recently told by a reporter that my suggestion that the BLM was mis-managing the program which could lead to the extinction of wild horses was overly dramatic because the BLM would lose funding if they didn't have the program. That is untrue. The BLM oversees many programs, the wild horse and burro program is simply one of many programs. The BLM is an agency under the Department of the Interior and would continue to receive funding to oversee the grazing of cattle and other livestock, other wildlife, mining, drilling and public land use. They do NOT need the horses to justify their existence. I stand by my statement that the BLM has abused the wild horse and burro program, mis-managing it to the point that it has become a fraudulent use of taxpayer funds.

As of this writting the BLM is under investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). When the GAO previously investigated this issue they found that the BLM was not properly administering the program. However, the investigation was stopped short. We sincerely hope that this time the GAO, who is supposed to be unfettered in their investigations, is allowed to pursue the issue completely. Their preliminary report is due in September 2008 to Congress. Congressman Rahall and Congressman Grajalva have asked the BLM to postpone any actions toward killing any horses in long term holding facilities until the GAO report is complete. They have also asked for answers to a number of questions. In previous years the BLM has not responded well to such inquiries. Hopefully, they will be more forthcoming with this request as these Congressmen head the committee that funds the BLM.

The government needs to have the wild horse and burro program taken over by another agency, preferably a new agency without the same conflicts of interest so our wild horses and burros can survive for our future generations as Congress intended when they passed the law for their protection in 1971.

If you would like to voice your opinion on the BLM's proposal you can call a special number they have set up for public input 1-800-710-7597. You can also donate to a variety of programs designed to help the horses, including the AHDF.