Story by Ed Pearce of KOLOTV.com
Concern of Captured Horses Going to Slaughter Grows
Few issues can stir emotions quicker in Nevada than the subject of wild horses.
Their supporters are passionate. Their detractors are often determined and state and federal officials are often caught in between.
About 40 wild horse advocates stood with signs on the capitol mall Tuesday. Motorists passing by often joining them with a supportive honk of the horn.
Most of these people are veterans of those battles.
What brought them out to stand with signs on Carson City’s main thoroughfare was the state’s efforts to remove some horses from neighborhoods east of here all in the name of addressing a public safety issue.
Horses in alarming numbers have been drifting down from the Virginia range and wandering onto U-S 50 and 95 with dangerous results.
“It got so I was getting a call every other day that a horse had been hit,” says Department of Agriculture spokesman Ed Foster.
Foster says more than 30 horses have been killed. No motorists have been injured yet, but it’s not hard to think it’s just a matter of time.
The problem isn’t hard to find. When we were in Mound House Tuesday we found two horses just a block away from U-S 50 slowly grazing their way toward the highway. A horse was hit here just days ago.
So, the state is removing some of the horses.
“We’re addressing an acute public safety crisis,” says Foster.
Truth be told some in the crowd carrying signs on the capitol mall Tuesday don’t want to see any removal at all, but others agree some need to be removed. Their fear is what will happen next.
The state plans to sell the horses at auction.
“They’ll be sold to meat buyers,” says Bonnie Matton of the Wild Horse Preservation League, one of the groups represented at the rally.
Americans have never developed a taste for horse meat, but elsewhere in the world, particularly Europe, it’s part of the diet and the advocates say that’s where some horses sold here end up.
Foster isn’t so sure. He says at the rate the state is gathering the horses, perhaps five to ten a week, an auction may not attract buyers paying by the pound for meat on the hoof.
Besides, he says, the state won’t be sending the horses to an auction yard in Fallon, holding the sale instead at the state prison’s wild horse training facility at Stewart.
“We feel that has a more neutral feel,” says Foster. Matton isn’t impressed, seeing the potential sale of horses for slaughter at the site as a blow to a much admired program that results in very adoptable horses and rehabilitated prisoners.
There was a time, not long ago, when people like Matton were working cooperatively with the state on this problem keeping the Virginia range herd in check. The state gathered horses, the advocates found homes for them.
All that cooperation went south with Governor Gibbon’s appointment of Tony Lesperance as Director of the Department of Agriculture.
Early in his controversial tenure Lesperance summarily cancelled the agreements with the wild horse groups.
Lesperance is gone now and so is funding for a birth control program and just about anything else in the department’s budget for managing wild horses and the new administration is apparently slowly feeling its way with the issue and has yet to reestablish any working relationship with the wild horse groups.
That leaves the state gathering horses, which will be sold at auction and those rallying in Carson City fearing they will end up as dog food or on someone’s dinner table in Europe.
“There’s no reason for these horses to go to slaughter,” says Matton. “We have solutions, but they refuse to work with us.”