The Wild Horse Fight: Slaughter and a Tale of Two Neighboring States
Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, the Boulder County Democrat who sponsored a failed bill in 2022 to prohibit mountain lion hunting, has introduced a bill to prohibit equine slaughter for human consumption.
The bill, SB23-038, cosponsored by Rep. Lorena Garcia, D- Commerce City, criminalizes slaughter of an equine when the person knows or reasonably should know that any part of the equine will be used for human consumption; possesses, imports into the state, exports from the state, buys, sells, gives away, or accepts an equine with the intent of killing, or having another person kill, the equine if the person knows or reasonably should know that any part of the equine will be used for human consumption; or possesses, imports into the state, exports from the state, buys, sells, gives away, or accepts equine meat if the person knows or reasonably should know that the meat will be used for human consumption.
According to the bill summary, each equine that is unlawfully slaughtered and each 100 pounds of equine meat derived from unlawful slaughter is a separate offense. A first violation is a class 1 misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, and a second or subsequent violation within a 10-year period is a class 5 felony with a mandatory minimum fine of $5,000. If a person obtains the equine by fraud and commits unlawful equine slaughter, it is a class 4 felony with a mandatory minimum fine of $10,000. In addition, a person that commits unlawful equine slaughter is forever prohibited from owning, possessing, or caring for an equine and from participating in a public livestock market for three to five years.
The bill would also require notice of the crime of unlawful equine slaughter to be given at livestock auctions and on bills of sale.
Horse slaughter in the U.S. was essentially banned in 2016 when Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act that banned the use of federal funding for the inspection of horses, which prevented the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Federal inspection of horse meat is mandated by the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
This bill has been introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where it will be heard on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 1:30 p.m.
In Wyoming, House Joint Resolution 3, Wild horses and burros — best management practices, requests that Congress enact legislation and make policy changes to allow federal land management agencies and agency partners to allow equine slaughter and processing for shipment to accommodating markets in and outside the U.S. as a best management practice.
Bill sponsors wrote that without responsible management, resources in the arid West cannot be managed for multiple use because wild horses unduly infringe upon other uses. The text contends that private landowners have no “recourse for the infringement of their private property rights other than to inform their local Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service field office to seek removal of the animal. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 requires and authorizes agencies to manage populations but sponsors contend the agencies are increasingly unable to adequately manage populations due to exponential increases in the number of wild horses and burros on the range, difficulties in adopting or selling wild horses and burros, lack of effective fertility control measures, lawsuits prohibiting or stalling gather and removals, insufficient availability of holding facilities and increasing management costs.
Sponsored by Reps. John Winter, R-Thermopolis, Chad Banks, D- Rock Springs, Robert Davis, R- Baggs, Chip Neiman, R-Hulett and Albert Sommers, R- Pinedale, and Sens. Ogden Driskill, R- Devils Tower, and Dan Laursen, R- Powell, the bill has been assigned to committee.
Legislation has also been introduced in Washington by the Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign that specifically protects wild horses and burros. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Protection Act of 2022 is touted by advocates as the most meaningful update to federal law governing wild equine management in over 50 years.
Introduced by US Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Joe Neguse, D-Colo.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; Dina Titus, D-Nev.; and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., the bill, according to Animal Welfare Institute, would protect wild horses and burros from slaughter, prioritize humane management, restore western habitat, promote partnerships with American veterans and nonprofit organizations, and increase transparency in the wild horse and burro programs run by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
“Coloradans are uniquely aware of the vital role of wild horses and burros in the American West,” Neguse said. “We must update protections enacted decades ago to better reflect current herd-management needs and ensure the ethical and humane treatment of these animals.”
According to AWI, the bill would also repeal the Burns Amendment, introduced in 2004 by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., to allow wild equines to be sold “without limitation” on slaughter. In subsequent years, Congress has used the appropriations process to prevent the commercial destruction of unadopted wild horses and burros, but this, AWI said, is a stopgap measure that must be renewed annually.