They Had a Party But Very Few Came

January 5, 2011

Story and Photo by Steven Long

After months of hype and frantic email promotion fewer than 200 traveled to snowy Las Vegas the first Monday in January to talk about saving the horse industry by reigniting the contentious issue of horse processing likely for human consumption in foreign markets.

At a kickoff dinner Monday evening less than 70 braved the cold to attend what was billed in advance as a national meeting of the horse industry.

Tuesday, on the very day President Obama signed potent new legislation giving the federal Food and Drug Administration authority over the nation’s meat supply, about 30 speakers quoted disputed numbers of abandoned horses not supported by law enforcement records.

“Never before in the annals of history has so much been misrepresented about so many by so few,” said John Holland, president of the Chicago based Equine Welfare Alliance, who watched the event on a video feed.  One Las Vegas television station described Summit attendance as being in the dozens.

Many in the sparse crowd who traveled to Las Vegas South Point Hotel and Casino for a meeting styled “The Summit of the Horse” were ranchers who last year decried inspections and paperwork required by the USDA’s ill fated NAIS program which was abandoned after massive protests from horse owners and agriculture. The new FDA rules will force horse owners to send chemical free

horses to slaughter if the group’s hoped for slaughterhouses are ever built. A question never raised at the Summit was whether the U.S. would move to a meat animal passport system if horse processing were again made legal.

In some European countries, horses are required to have a passport that follows them for life showing them to be chemical free. Such is the case for all European horses bound for slaughter. Virtually all domestic American horses would fail the test for dangerous chemical contamination because of the routine administration of bute, wormers, banamine, and other substances which remain in the carcass of an animal for life. Under current FDA rules, bute is strictly prohibited in food animals and there are no provisions under FDA rules for a decontamination period as was repeatedly suggested by speakers at the summit.

Even the once protected Mustangs under the management of the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are not chemical free. Mares returned the range are administered birth control and the horses moved to holding are wormed and treated with bute for their injuries.

In addition, the European Union prohibits all wild equidae meat except zebra. BLM’s director, Bob Abbey was a keynote speaker at the summit which stated its primary purpose was to make horse slaughter for human consumption legal in the United States.

Abbey stated in no uncertain terms that the slaughter of wild horses is off the table, a direct slap in the face to summit organizers.

The BLM holds tens of thousands of wild horses in captivity. These horses, frequently acclaimed as symbols of the freedom of America, were protected under the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act. But in an 11th hour bit of politics immediately before the congress took its Christmas break a rider attached to the 2005 appropriations bill by former Montana Sen.

Conrad Burns, with the help of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, removed those protections. BLM promptly enacted a rule stating that older, unadoptable horses, could be sold without limitation to the public. Wild horse advocates charge that the likely market is the “killer buyers” of the slaughter industry which is now located in Mexico and Canada.

Last year the BLM squandered its entire $63 million Wild Horse and Burro Program budget on massive roundups of horses the agency holds in captivity enriching private landowners for their upkeep. Last year Congress increased that budget by $12 million. Prior to captivity, the horses cost the government nothing living in freedom on the 245 million mostly vacant BLM lands.

Wild horse advocates call this waste of federal dollars and animal cruelty at its worst. In 2008, a plan to kill thousands of horses to relieve the agency of their expense was leaked to the media causing outrage among horse lovers and the general public alike.

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11 comments for “They Had a Party But Very Few Came

  1. Bossmare
    January 6, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis and her horse eating buddy Dave have their own agenda. Now that Sue’s slaughter house in Wyoming is a no-go, she says that it wasn’t going to be a slaughter house but a “training center.” Huh, I know when I’m being buffaloed by someone. She is now blabbing about allowing small, family type slaughter houses to be opened so sell their tainted meat to directly to the public. Please, how stupid does she think people are???

    • January 8, 2011 at 12:10 am

      Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

  2. gwenvt
    January 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Right on Windgust! Alas, as long as corporate greed exists, the horses will suffer. There has got to be one politician out there with the balls and power to stop this capricious catering to big oil and beef. We just need to find him or her and put an end to this corruption once and for all…

  3. windgust
    January 5, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I wonder what other ideas Bob Abbey would promote to restore / protect America’s mustangs – maybe return the approx. 20 million acres, on which the wild horses and burros roamed at the time of passage of the 1971 Act, for which loss of range BLM has yet to provide adequate justification ? Or protect the natural resources on the range by reducing the livestock grazing permittees ? Or end scapegoating the mustangs and burros for hamburger and gasoline ? Or reintroduce natural predators to fulfill their age old ecological role ? Or establish equal water rights instead of letting ranchers and developers monopolize them ? Since Western ranges seem to sustain the millions of cattle who graze on it just fine, reducing the subsidized cattle leases would only make sense to maintain the thriving natural ecological balance for mustangs, as it was meant to be by the 1971 Act. Ecotourism focused on wild horses in their original federally protected habitat would not only boost the economy, but also not require the enormous subsidies as is currently the case in the public land’s livestock industry. Or is it to finally apply real science to conduct true and realistic range land health assessements instead of speculative conclusions such as Wallis resorts to ? Or is it to end the inhumane round ups (plenty of evidence footage available) and the broken range management system that favors ranchers and other commercial interests ? These mustangs are the people’s horses and they must remain wild and free. Stop auctioning off our public lands to foreign owned companies for cattle and fossil fuel drilling – spend our tax dollars on an “in-the-wild” management program, not removals. Assess our public lands independently and stop the propaganda.

  4. Jan Schultz
    January 5, 2011 at 7:00 am

    This is a great article and I do appreciate your taking the time to find factual statements that round out the report. Thank you.

  5. January 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I must add that I saw an hour or so of streaming video during Monday night’s opening [non]event. It was so disappointing to see Waddie Mitchell appearing there as a volunteer, unpaid entertainer- and even more disheartening to watch him quote a beautiful self-penned poem that was a touching ‘conversation with his pal- his ranch horse’. It is absolutely befuddling to me how someone can claim to have an emotional connection like friendship with a horse, and in the same breath, advocate for the barbaric slaughter of that same animal when it’s no long useful to him. It was really very sad, and my love and respect for Mr. Mitchell drained from me forever as I watched it happen.

    • golde
      January 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      It is important to let Waddie Mitchell know how his appearance and involvement in this “Scummit” destroyed his credibility in the eyes of those who truly care about horses. He just established himself as a true hypocrite.

    • January 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      Are you SURE Waddie wasn’t making his own statement AGAINST horse slaughter…by reciting that poem?

      • KMG
        January 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm

        If so, his “statement” would have had more significance and impact had he declined the invitation to this “Summit” It was well known to be a gathering of those wanting to reestablish horse slaughter in the US.
        Was Mr Mitchell unaware of the agenda?
        I sincerely doubt it…

  6. January 5, 2011 at 6:29 am

    This is a terrific article! Very well written. Thank you for the coverage of the Summit of the Horse, in a truthful and clear manner.

    You are appreciated!

    • Trish Lee
      January 5, 2011 at 7:57 am

      I agree 100% with Elaine. Well written article. Very accurate!! Thank You!

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