By Steven Long
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – When an unimpeachable public service investigative journalism organization, the Manhattan based Pro Publica, entered the public policy debate over Bureau of Land Management treatment of the wild horses in its care, the issue decidedly took the ongoing probe to the next level. And major metropolitan daily newspapers sat up and took notice.
Pro Publica’s magazine length feature by freelance writer Dave Phillips was an exhaustive work alleging a well known Colorado kill buyer may have sent as many as 1,700 federally protected wild horses and burros to slaughter. The horses are missing, and thus far, the buyer, Tom Davis, has not stated where the animals have gone. When asked by Horseback Magazine if BLM would make a statement on the allegation that the Davis horses went to slaughter, BLM national spokesman Tom Gorey responded:
“The Pro Publica/Denver Post article on Tom Davis, it should be noted, does not provide any evidence that wild horses sold to Davis have gone to slaughter,” he said early Tuesday morning. “The BLM will investigate any credible claims that horses sold by the agency have gone or are going to slaughter.”
Even without revelation of his long history as a killer buyer, Davis went on the record to the publication.
“Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever iat is a fat yearling colt,” he said. “
What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?”
Davis own words would be enough for a reasonable government bureaucrat to believe the vanished horses went to the meat truck.
When asked by Horseback what, by agency standards, constituted a credible claim, Gorey answered.
“Our law enforcement personnel will make that determination on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “The overriding goal in such matters is to prevent horses from going to slaughter.”
The agency’s publicly stated policy is that it does not sell horses to slaughter, however, kill buyers have taken advantage of lack of scrutiny by BLM personnel. The federal Bureau of Land Management has long been plagued by rumors protected horses under its jurisdiction are routinely sold to slaughter, allegations it flatly denies. On more than one occasion reports have reached Horseback that large cattle trucks leave BLM holding pastures in the dead of night headed for Mexico.
On its website, the Pro Publica crack investigative unit describes its leadership. “ProPublica is led by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Stephen Engelberg, a former managing editor of The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon and former investigative editor of The New York Times, is ProPublica’s managing editor. Richard Tofel, the former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is general manager.”
A pair of Utah killer buyers was indicted by a federal grand jury a year ago after being caught with 64 horses sold to them by BLM and allegedly headed to a Texas slaughterhouse. Named were Robert Wilford Capson, 59, of West Jordan, and Dennis Kay Kunz, 56, of Willard.
Capson was convicted of one felony count, received a year probation, 100 hours community service, and paid the government $9,400 restitution. Prosecutors are currently negotiating a plea in the Kunz case.
Asked if BLM had launched an investigation of the horses missing in Colorado in light of the serious and potentially devastating charges made in the Pro Publica, Gorey responded saying:
“I can’t comment on that.”