Written by Steve Timko in the Reno Gazette-Journal
Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Nov. 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December. Slaughter opponents opted for a measure cutting off the funding in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years.
However, despite the lifting of the ban, the Bureau of Land Management has no plans to change its policy that forbids using captured wild horses for meat.
BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said that if a buyer is known to sell horses for slaughter, the BLM can refuse to sell to them. Or if a buyer tries to sell a wild horse for meat, the BLM can refuse to sell to them in the future.
Wild horses have a particular type of brand, and slaughterhouses are instructed to call the BLM before killing them, Worley said.
Horses considered estray and not wild are handled by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. No one from the department was available for comment Wednesday on its status now that the slaughter ban has been lifted.
Anne Novak of the California-based Protect Mustangs wild horse advocacy group said she worried that wild horses could be stolen off the range before the BLM brands them to be sold for meat.
“There just not enough manpower in the BLM to make sure these horses are not stolen and trucked off,” Novak said.
Novak said residential horse thefts dropped by a third after the meat processing plants were closed in 2006.
Douglas County wildlife ecologist Craig Downer said allowing the slaughter of horses gives horse breeders incentive to overbreed racehorses and sell the slower ones.
“If a person has a horse, they should take care of it for life,” Downer said. “They shouldn’t be able to take them down and have them slaughtered.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.