"Summit for the Horse" promotes slaughtering wild horses

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2011:

LAS VEGAS--Intended to promote horse slaughter in general,  and slaughtering wild horses in specific,  the Summit for the Horse held in Las Vegas during the first week of January 2011 heard messages from Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey and slaughterhouse design consultant Temple Grandin that were not what most of the reportedly sparse audience wanted to hear.

Not more than 200 people converged on the Southpoint Casino to attend the Summit for the Horse,  according to a variety of crowd counts. Most counts placed the plenary attendance at 100-150,  including 42 speakers.

Speaking for allied animal use industries were National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president J.D. Alexander,  Masters of Fox Hounds Association executive director Dennis Foster, and Mindy Patterson,  who led breeder opposition to Missouri Proposition B,  a ballot initiative to increase regulation of puppy breeders that was approved by voters in November 2010.

Horse industry speakers included Dave Catoor,  whose company conducts helicopter round-ups of wild horses for the BLM;  rodeo stock contractor Ike Sankey,  whom the animal advocacy organization SHARK has repeatedly caught on camera in electroshocking incidents;  and former U.S. Representative Charles Stenholm,   of Texas,  who lost his seat in November 2004 and in 2005-2007 prominently lobbied against the closure of the last three U.S. horse slaughterhouses.

AHA for slaughter?
The lone speaker from a prominent humane organization was Tim Amlaw,  director of the American Humane Certified program of the American Humane Association,  which certifies livestock production methods.

In opposition to the views of other animal advocacy organizations that work on farm animal issues,  the AHA has since mid-2010 endorsed slaughtering poultry by decompression, and has endorsed the use of “enriched” battery cages for egg-laying chickens to meet the requirements of the 2008 California ballot initiative which required the phase-out of battery caging.

Amlaw,  assessed Suzanne Roy of Wild Horse Preservation,  “delivered essentially a sales pitch about what the AHA certification program could do for the horsemeat industry, touting what it had done previously for other meat industries.”

ANIMAL PEOPLE asked AHA chief executive Robin Ganzert how Amlaw’s remarks could be reconciled with the AHA position statement on wild horses.  “In 1971,”  says the AHA statement, “Congress enacted the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act to protect these animals that are viewed by many as the last symbols of the American West.  In spite of the law,  tens of thousands of wild horses and burros have been removed from public lands.  American Humane believes in the full implementation of federal law and   calls for regulations,  guidelines and scientific formulas to determine forage allocations for the multiple use of the public lands; supports rational management of public lands which respects the value of wild horses and the interests of all citizens;  encourages the establishment of a clear formula to justify the numbers of horses and livestock permitted on the public lands;  and opposes attempts to weaken the Wild Horse & Burro Act.”

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act,  as originally passed,  prohibited selling to slaughter any wild horses who were removed from the range,  until at least a year after adoption by private individuals.  Often violated, the act was amended by a stealth rider introduced by former Montana Senator Conrad Burns as part of a federal appropriation bill,  passed without debate just before Thanksgiving 2004.  The rider directed the BLM to sell “Any excess animal or the remains of an excess animalŠif the excess animal is more than 10 years of age,  or the excess animal has been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least three timesŠwithout limitationŠincluding through auction to the highest bidder,  at local sale yards,  or other convenient livestock selling facilities.”

Replied Ganzert,  “We stand behind our position statements,  and there was no conflict in Tim’s panel presentation,”  but 10 days later Ganzert had still not provided a formal statement that she had said would follow.

“Better options”

Said BLM director Abbey,  “I want to be clear about one thing. [Interior] Secretary [Ken] Salazar and I have consistently stated since taking on our current roles that we do not support,  nor are we willing to incorporate into any wild horse or burro strategy that we pursue, the euthanasia of healthy wild horses and the unlimited sale of older horses [for slaughter], even though these legal authorities exist under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971,  as amended.  Having taken the position that slaughter is not a viable or acceptable management option for America’s wild horses or burros which are removed from BLM managed land, then we must be willing to pursue other alternatives.  Wild horses are part of our nation’s heritage,  and need to be protected,” Abbey affirmed.  “We are not entertaining the use of slaughterhouses or selling horses for slaughter.  I’m not going to speak to private horses or livestock,  but as it relates to wild horses,  we believe that there are better options available to us.

“There are a lot of people who believe we have ulterior motives in the actions we are taking,”  Abbey continued,  denouncing speculation that intensified wild horse round-ups in 2010-2011 have been done in anticipation of selling horses to slaughter.  “We are not interested in eliminating wild horses from these lands.  Some scrutiny of this program has crossed the line of fair criticism,”  Abbey asserted. Abbey described BLM tests of wild horse contraception underway in connection with 11 gathers of wild horses in Nevada, Idaho and Utah. Abbey also praised the efforts of Madeleine Pickens,  wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, to create a sanctuary in rural Nevada that could keep large numbers of wild horses in semi-natural habitat.

Currently the BLM is holding about 38,000 wild horses at locations in Kansas,  Oklahoma and South Dakota.   About 38,365 remain on public land in 10 western states.

Summit for the Horse organizer Sue Wallis,  a Republican state representative from Recluse,  Wyoming,  told media in early 2010 that she was working with Temple Grandin to design a horse slaughterhouse to be located in Wyoming. Responded Grandin,  to Robert Arnson of The Western Producer,   “We have done no design work. All we did is,  we had one lunch meeting with her [Sue Wallis]. Mark,  my assistant,  went up and looked at one place where they were thinking of building the plant and it was a junkyard.  We have designed nothing at this point.”

Yet Grandin was among the Summit for the Horse headliners,  somewhat to the surprise of horse advocates who knew her previous statements about horse slaughter.

Wrote Animal Law Coalition founder Laura Allen,  “Prior to the summit,   Dr. Grandin told us,  ‘I have told Sue Wallis that I want no involvement in her business dealings.’  She described herself as ‘neutral’ on the issue of whether to ban horse slaughter for human consumption,”  explaining that her concerns have to do with the cruelty of horse slaughter as often practiced in Mexico,  and the difficulty of preventing horse exports to Mexico.
At the summit,  Grandin recited a list of possible ways of dealing with surplus horses, wild or domestic.  She then described the requirements she believes would be necessary to humanely slaughter horses,  which–as at least one member of the audience reportedly objected–would make building a horse slaughterhouse prohibitively expensive relative to the limited economic opportunities for horse slaughter. “In effect,” summarized Allen,  “the solutions relayed by Grandin are to stop the overbreeding,  and find ways to care for horses in need.”


“Was Wallis listening to the high standards for humane treatment that Grandin would impose on her proposed slaughter facility, should it ever be legally and otherwise operational? Unlikely,”  Allen continued,  “as Wallis appears to have been busy shoving reporter and horse advocate Simone Netherlands out of the conference room.  The police were called and Netherlands was treated for injuries at a local hospital.”

Confirmed Steven Long of the Houston publication Horseback Online,  “Wallis will likely face a personal injury lawsuit.  During a speech by renowned animal behaviorist and slaughter expert Temple Grandin,  Wallis allegedly charged a credentialed journalist who says her arm is healing from a horse accident. The arm has nine pins in it put there during orthopedic surgery,”   four weeks earlier.

Netherlands attended the Summit for the Horse on behalf of a public broadcasting station in Santa Barbara,  California.

“Wallis was apparently angered by statements Netherlands  made during a news conference,”  wrote Long,  where Netherlands “attacked alleged misstatements about horse processing made by Summit organizers and speakers.  The comments were aired on a Las Vegas TV newscast.”

Wallis was already having a difficult week.  On the eve of the summit,  reported Casper Star-Tribune capitol bureau correspondent Joan Barron on January 2,  Wyoming house speaker Ed Buchanan pledged to “look at an ethics complaint” filed against Wallis by horse advocate Patricia Fazio.
Alleged Fazio in her complaint,  “Wallis is on a crusade to return horse slaughter for human consumption to the U.S.  I believe she is improperly and even fraudulently using her position as a Wyoming representative to promote and misrepresent the issue to her financial benefit.”

Fazio sent similar complaints about Wallis to ANIMAL PEOPLE in May 2010.

One day earlier,  on January 1,  Josh Mitchell of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported that Wallis’ widely reported plans to open a horse slaughterhouse in Cheyenne had fallen through.

“A horse slaughter plant will not open here,  according to the woman proposing the facility,”  wrote Michell.  “In fact,  Sue Wallis said she never planned on opening such a facility here.  Wallis said a horse training facility was proposed for Cheyenne.  But since she was unable to reach an agreement for use of a piece of property,  it won’t open here now.  She added that the horse processing facility is expected to open in Platte County, possibly in 2012.  The meat from the processed horses could be sold to zoos for food,  Wallis said.”

Wallis’ original plan,  outlined to Barron of the Star-Tribune,  was “to set up something like a triage operation for abandoned or unwanted horses,”  Barron summarized.  “The horses would be screened and provided rehabilitation,  training,  or slaughter, depending on their condition.  Since Wyoming is one of 22 or 23 states that have meat inspection programs, Wallis said,  the horses can be slaughtered and used for human consumption in state restaurants or state institutions.”

Wallis in early 2010 won passage of state legislation that could allow the Wyoming Livestock Board to authorize slaughtering stray and abandoned horses for sale “to state institutions or to nonprofit organizations,”  but Wyoming Livestock Board director Jim Schwartz told Barron that getting involved in horse slaughter “is not an option,  in my opinion. We’ll continue to do what we’ve always done and try to get them sold and find good homes for them,”  Schwartz pledged.

Wallis was only one of several would-be horse slaughter entrepreneurs to address the Summit of the Horse.  Another was former Montana state representative Ed Butcher.    “We want to see horse plants all over the country so you don’t have the hassle of these long hauls,”  said Butcher.  “We are looking at plants that will probably kill 100 horses a day,”  or about half the volume of each of the last three horse slaughterhouses in the U.S.,  closed in 2007.

Butcher in 2009-2010 promoted a plan to convert an abandoned sugar plant in Hardin, Montana into a horse slaughterhouse,  but was thwarted when in March 2010 the Hardin city council prohibited facilities that slaughter more than 25 animals per week from operating within city limits.
The BLM is expected to introduce a new wild horse management policy later in 2011.  The new policy was anticipated in late 2010,  but a BLM web posting on December 22,  2010 announced a delay,  attributed in part to the agency having received more than 9,000 comments from interested organizations and individuals.  The National Academy of Sciences,  at direction of Congress, in mid-2010 began a two-year assessment of BLM wild horse management, to advise future legislative directions. –Merritt Clifton


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