Wild Horses Are Being Rounded Up Right Now — And May Be Sent To Slaughter

There’s something you can do to help.

Helicopters thunder across the landscape, chasing hundreds of wild horses so people can lock them up in holding pens. The horses are stressed and scared, but this isn’t the worst part — soon they’ll be sold off, and many could end up in a slaughterhouse.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service began removing wild horses from the Devil’s Garden region of California, despite this being a designated area for wild horses to freely live. The reason? It’s all about protecting commercial livestock, Grace Kuhn, communications director for the American Wild Horse Campaign, told The Dodo.

Helicopter rounding up wild horses
American Wild Horse Campaign

“The Forest Service set a population limit of 206 to 402 horses on 300,000 acres in Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory while authorizing thousands of cattle and sheep to graze on the public lands within the wild horse habitat,” Kuhn said. “In the current roundup, the Forest Service is removing 1,000 horses from two grazing allotments in order for ranchers to turn out cattle again on the public lands there.”

Wild horses being rounded up in California
Wild horses in temporary holding pens in California | American Wild Horse Campaign

Unfortunately, horse roundups are fairly common in the western states., even though wild horses and burros are protected under U.S. federal law. At many roundups, horses become so stressed and exhausted that injure themselves, and young horses and elderly horses have died as a result.

So far at this roundup, no injuries or fatalities have been reported — yet animal welfare advocates are still very concerned for the horses’ welfare, mainly because of the likelihood that they’ll end up in slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

Wild horses inside pens
American Wild Horse Campaign

“300 older horses will be sent to a Forest Service temporary holding facility,” Kuhn said. “For the first 60 days after processing, they will be sold ‘with limitation,’ with a limit of 24 horses per buyer per day. After 60 days, any older horses not sold will be made available for sale without limitation for $1. Buyers will be allowed to purchase them 36 at a time, on a weekly basis, allowing kill buyers to directly purchase a truckload of horses per week for slaughter until they are all gone.”

Wild horses inside holding pen in California
American Wild Horse Campaign

Selling a horse “without limitation” means that they can be bought for any purpose, including slaughter.

It’s actually illegal in California to kill horses for their meat, or to export horses to slaughterhouses — but this doesn’t seem to be affecting the Forest Service’s plans.

Horses being loaded up and taken away
American Wild Horse Campaign

“While the Forest Service may try to claim it is exempt from state law, the purchasers of any Devil’s Garden horses offered for sale without restriction are not,” Kuhn said. “Therefore, any individual who buys Devil’s Garden horses for the purpose of selling them for slaughter will be committing a felony.”

To try and protect these wild horses, you can get in touch with members of Congress or officials in the U.S. Forest Service, and tell them your concerns.