Wild Horse Spirit, Ltd. presents...the horse saga continues.

Utah Wild Horses Still Being Sent to Slaughterhorse auction tag         
 Monday, January 1, 2001

    One of every 10 wild horses killed at three big U.S. slaughterhouses in 1999 was adopted from Utah, newly released federal records show.

    Adopters of wild horses sign agreements that they do not intend to use the horses for commercial purposes or sell them to a slaughterhouse.  But logs maintained by the meatpacking plants -- two in Texas and one in Nebraska (*see below) -- show nearly 300 federally protected mustangs were processed into meat and pet food in 1999, the most recent year data were available. Most of the wild horses slaughtered at the plants were less than 6 years old and were killed within months of owners' receiving title to them.  Of the 300 mustangs slaughtered at the three plants, 35 carried "freeze-brand" markings indicating they were adopted from Utah herds. The names of 33 Utah residents holding title to slaughtered wild horses also are included in the partial records, released by the Bureau of Land Management under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to animal-rights groups that have sued the federal agency twice over failure to protect the horses as Congress intended.

    The Fund for Animals and the Animal Protection Institute of America have gone to federal court in Reno, Nev., charging that the BLM is failing to prosecute people who adopt wild horses only to sell them to slaughterhouses.

    U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben has given the BLM until Jan. 28 to document how many wild horses it adopted out have been slaughtered since 1998 and how many of those cases have been recommended for prosecution. Thousands of domesticated horses are butchered annually at slaughterhouses. Fears of mad cow disease in Europe have fueled a rise in price for exported U.S. horse meat overseas. But wild horse advocates have argued that Congress never intended the "living legends of the West" to be sold to slaughterhouses just months after adoption and wind up as the featured entree at a Belgian cafe.

    "If a horse is old, lame or infirm, the humane thing to do is have a professional euthanize the animal and then the remains go to a rendering plant," said Andrea Lococo, Rocky Mountain coordinator for the Fund for Animals. "These wild horses were given a special designation by Congress, and we don't believe Congress ever intended them to be sent to slaughter."

    Thus far in the legal battle, McKibben has agreed with that interpretation of the law and has twice ordered the BLM to take steps to prevent adopters from routinely selling horses for commercial purposes shortly after taking title. "The problem is not nearly acute as it was a number of years ago," McKibben said during a Nov. 29 court hearing. However, he said, "it does appear to me that the BLM has been somewhat reluctant in moving quickly."

    An adopter who signs the standard adoption maintenance agreement and the application for title and then sells the mustang to a slaughterhouse could be prosecuted under the federal False Claims Act with a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The so-called attestation language in the agreements was part of a 1997 settlement of the second suit brought by wild horse advocates against the BLM. At the time, McKibben ordered the BLM to change all forms to include an attestation that "I hereby state that I have no intent to sell this wild horse or burro for slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products."

    During the Nov. 29 court hearing, U.S. Justice Department attorneys representing the BLM said that all agency offices have been using the new adoption and title forms with the attestation language since April 1998. The agency checks the name of every potential adopter with a database of past violations, such as adopted horses winding up at slaughterhouses.  "The adoption procedures . . . do well indicate to the BLM through its database whether there are any offenders or whether there are any problems with people who repeatedly adopt horses," said Justice Department attorney Lyn Jacobs. "That is certainly something that has been addressed by the BLM."

    The slaughterhouse logs tell a different story. Some Utahans whose wild horses wind up at slaughterhouses are regularly adopting more horses.  "I've adopted several of them," said Wade Jensen of Cleveland in Emery County, who took title to a BLM wild horse he adopted in January 1999. The horse was slaughtered eight months later at Central Nebraska Packing in North Platte, Neb. "I've never sold one to a slaughterhouse. I don't know where they go when I sell one," Jensen told The Salt Lake Tribune. "When I adopt them they are my property to do with what I please. I've never broken the law."

    There is no indication that any Utah adopter has ever been prosecuted for selling a wild horse that wound up butchered for meat products. BLM officials have said they view the court-ordered attestation language as a "gray area" of law.

    "Adopters now sign an agreement that says it's not their intent to sell the horse for slaughter, but it's not clear just how long that signed agreement is intended to last," BLM Wild Horse Program Director Tom Pagacnik told The Tribune in October 1999, shortly after the agency announced that 575 mustangs wound up in slaughterhouses in the first year after the tougher requirements.

    Wild horse advocates, however, charge that the BLM is ignoring the routine trafficking of adopted young, healthy mustangs being sold at auction or sale yards and shipped to packing plants. "Adopters have to be pretty naive not to know these animals are being purchased by buyers for slaughter," said Lococo of the Fund for Animals. "These people sign a federal agreement to provide humane care to these horses for the rest of their lives, and they have the opportunity to return the animals back to the BLM before they apply for title."

    Slaughterhouse logs show most mustangs going to slaughter were titled to adopters only weeks or months earlier. In two cases of Utah adopters found in the logs, the horses were butchered a week before the BLM titled the horses to the adopters. Five wild horses adopted by Charles Riddle of Fairview in Sanpete County were slaughtered at the same time, with three of the horses titled to Riddle just six months earlier. Riddle could not be reached by The Tribune.

    McKibben said he is most concerned by the BLM's inability to prevent people from adopting more mustangs when the horses they have previously adopted wound up at slaughterhouses. "It's one thing to say we didn't know what their intent was originally," he said. "But if they signed the document indicating that they wouldn't slaughter the horse, and then they slaughtered the horse and you have that in your databank, and notwithstanding that you went ahead and allowed them to take a horse again, that would be extremely troubling."

    McKibben said there is no proof of repeated abuses by adopters before his court, and federal attorneys maintain that the information they have been told to provide the judge in January also will show no discrepancies.

    "There's no evidence that there are continuing problems with the wild horse program," said Jacobs.

    But Lococo said the slaughterhouse logs directly contradict such assertions. "There is no excuse for the BLM not to be investigating the circumstances of why these horses are being carted off to slaughter just weeks after adopters receive title," she said. "All they need to do is prosecute a few of these people and that will dramatically reduce this problem."

*The horse slaughterhouse for human consumption in North Platt, Nebraska is now closed.  After an Illinois horse slaughterhouse was denied expansion of its facility, it mysteriously burned down. There were plans to rebuild this facility, but currently continues to be closed.  Currently, (6-6-2003) there remains only two horse slaughterhouses for human consumption in USA. Both are located in Texas...Beltex and Dallas Crown.  Texas stopped a legislative bill that would have reverse an old law prohibiting horse slaughter for human consumption. Go here for more information on Texas!