How the Trump Administration's Budget May Affect Wild Horses in the West

Posted by Allie Layos
wild horse herd

Wild horses may be killed in greater numbers under a new U.S. budget proposal. 

The proposed budget for the Bureau of Land Management seeks an 11% cut to the agency's $1.1 billion budget, including a cut of $10 million and 29 jobs from the Wild Horse and Burro management program, changes that may have a big impact on wild horses in the American West.

It is estimated that there are 73,000 wild horses and burros in the American West. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act called for the "protection, management and control" of these equines living on federal public land. However, restrictions added in 1988, 2004, and 2010 prohibited the destruction of healthy animals, as well as the sale of horses to companies that slaughter them for food.

Mustang horses touching noses

The language the BLM submitted to Congress asks that Congress "eliminate appropriations language restricting the BLM from using all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act."

In other words, it asks that the slaughter restrictions be removed.

READ MOREHouse Lifts Ban on Horse Meat at American Processing Plants

Many call the practice of slaughter cruel.

"America is not a horse-eating nation, horses are our partners in work and recreation," Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said in an interview with USA Today.

However, the BLM and cattle ranching interests believe the new policies would combat the real problem of overpopulation. Dave Stix Jr., president of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association, said;

"We only have so much feed and water out there. If being able to sell the horses and they end up going to a protein source overseas that is better than having them starve to death on the open range."

wild horse

Horses are routinely removed from the land, and held in BLM or privately-owned holding areas until they can be sold or adopted. However, the supply, which now amounts to about 46,000 captive horses and burros, is much greater than the demand. There just aren't enough non-kill buyers out there.

Wild horse advocates continue to support other non-lethal management methods such as birth control -- said by the National Academy of Sciences in 2013 to be one of the most effective non-lethal methods the agency could use. However, this method will lose much of its funding under the budget proposal, though birth control research will continue.

Do you think the ban on selling horses for slaughter should be lifted? Let us know below. 

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How the Trump Administration's Budget May Affect Wild Horses in the West