U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-NM, on Monday to urge the Interior Department to end plans to exterminate or sell more than 45,000 wild horses.
Buchanan and Lujan Grisham slammed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for urging the Interior Department to kill the horses or sell them. The Florida Republican said that many of the horses would end up in Mexican slaughterhouses.
“The Bureau of Land Management needs to find another herd management method that doesn’t involve killing 45,000 majestic wild American horses,” Buchanan said on Monday. “The department needs to permanently reject the monstrous and unacceptable recommendations of its advisory board.
“It is disgraceful that this Board, whose purpose is to provide sound advice on the management of wild horses, would even consider euthanizing these horses as a plausible management technique,” Buchanan added. “We strongly urge the Interior Department to not only reject but denounce the Board’s recommendations.”
“The BLM is charged with managing wild horse populations, which should emphasize humane herd management techniques,” Lujan Grisham said. “The recommendation of this advisory board is an abdication of that responsibility. I am encouraged by BLM's decision to reject the board's recommendation and I strongly urge the Department to maintain this position and ensure these wild horses will not be euthanized or put at risk of slaughter.”
Buchanan and Lujan Grisham sent a letter off to U.S. Interior Sec. Sally Jewell and Neil Kornze, the director of the BLM, opposing any such efforts.
“We were shocked to hear that the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended that the Department of Interior (DOI) consider euthanizing 45,000 wild horses or offering horses for sale without limitation,” the representatives wrote. “It is disgraceful that the Board, whose purpose is to provide sound advice on the management of wild horses, would even consider euthanizing these horses as a plausible management technique. We welcome recent statements by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that you will not euthanize or otherwise put the horses at risk of slaughter, and we encourage the agency to maintain this position and seek other herd management techniques.
“For the past 20 years, BLM has relied on rounding up horses from the range as a primary population management strategy, and the agency now has more than 45,000 horses and burros in holding facilities as a result,” they added. “Upon reviewing the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Management program, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2013 asserted that roundups and removals contribute to high horse populations on the range. The NAS instead recommended that BLM increase the use of fertility control methods on the range. However, in fiscal year 2015, BLM only used fertility control on 469 wild horses – less than .01 percent of the 56,000 horses on the range. By continuing to remove horses from the range to manage population, population growth rates are actually increasing through compensatory population growth from decreased competition for forage. Future removals are then necessary to maintain population levels.
“Furthermore, following the Board’s recommendation and offering horses for sale without restriction opens the door for the slaughter of wild horses – a horrifically cruel practice that is opposed by a majority of Americans,” the representatives continued. “Horse slaughter cannot be conducted in a humane manner. Horses are shipped for long periods of time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight or flight response, which makes accurate stunning difficult. As a result, horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment; this is rarely a quick, painless death. Congress has stopped the slaughter of wild horses since 2009 by preventing the BLM from using federal funds to send any American wild horse to slaughter.
“We strongly urge DOI to reject the Board’s recommendations and hold true to your statement that these horses will not be euthanized or put at risk of slaughter,” they concluded. “We urge the agency to follow NAS’s recommendations to increase the use of immunocontraception – a solution that benefits horses and taxpayers alike. We also request that the agency commit to a timeline for the expansion of immunocontraceptive use on rangelands in the West and report back to Congress on their progress.”
Earlier this year, the Humane Society of the United States honored Buchanan as its legislator of the year, the first time a member of the Florida delegation has received the honor.
Buchanan received a 100 score from the Humane Society last year and fought for some of the group’s top priorities. Last year, Buchanan brought out the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act which bans exporting horses to Mexican slaughterhouses. Buchanan has also led the charge on Capitol Hill to stop domestic slaughterhouses from creating horse meat for human consumption. The Bradenton congressman has also been active in trying to keep manatees covered under the Endangered Species Act. Earlier this year, Buchanan protested the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to downgrade manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.”
“Safeguarding threatened wildlife and promoting animal welfare should be a nonpartisan issue important to everyone,” Buchanan said when he received that honor. “Whether it’s protecting Florida’s beloved manatees from extinction or ending the cruel and inhumane treatment of horses, I’m proud to fight in Congress on these important issues.”
First elected to the U.S. House in 2006, Buchanan serves on both the Budget and the Ways and Means Committees. Buchanan’s name has garnered buzz as a possible U.S. Senate candidate in recent cycles but he’s opted to continue in the House.