"Wild-horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of protection for wild horses—an icon of the American West—and could send thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as food," The Associated Press reports. They say the Trump administration is kowtowing to livestock interests who don’t want the region’s estimated 59,000 mustangs competing for precious forage across more than 40,000 square miles of rangeland in 10 states managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management."
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other interest groups have long urged the BLM to allow sales of wild horses for slaughter to make room in overcrowded corrals for the capture of more animals.
The BLM rounded up more than 7,000 horses in 2012, but only about 3,000 in each of the past two years, due primarily to budget constraints. As of March, the agency estimated that more than half of the horses, about 34,780, roaming the range were in Nevada. An additional 13,191 burros were on the range, with about half in Arizona. The BLM says U.S. rangeland can sustain fewer than 27,000 horses and burros.
The administration anticipates the $10 million savings would come through a reduction in the cost of containing and feeding the horses. Savings would also include cutbacks involving roundups and contraception programs, AP reports. Horse slaughterhouses are currently prohibited in the U.S. but legal in many other countries, including Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe.
Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, said the plan could put the horses on the brink of extinction. "America can’t be great if these national symbols of freedom are destroyed," she said.