Horse advocates are rallying against the possibility of wild horse slaughter in the state of Oklahoma. Right now, our lawmakers are considering two separate measures.
Equine advocates fear the bills allowing for horse slaughter could eliminate nearly 22,000 wild horses currently held in Oklahoma. The Bureau of Land Management oversees their care, so horse lovers are calling for big changes from the government to ensure iconic Mustangs will be protected.
"No, no slaughter houses here" was the chant horse advocates shouted outside the Bureau of Land Management's board meeting at the Oklahoma City Sheraton.
With signs held high painting their message loud and clear, horse welfare groups denounced the BLM's handling of wild horses.
"They're a part of our history and our culture, and they're sort of icons of freedom for America like the bald eagle," said Suzanne Roy, director of American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. "And yet, they're treated by this government agency like pests, to be rounded up and driven off the lands of their birth, and stockpiled or worse slaughtered, so we're here to demand fair treatment for horses."
The Bureau has moved about 22,000 wild horses from the West to ranges in Oklahoma. It costs taxpayers more than $120,000 a day to keep wild horses in Oklahoma's holding facilities, such as in Bartlesville, Pawhuska and Foraker.
Horse lovers want the government to leave them be, but the Bureau says there are too many horses for the land to support.
"We have to manage those herds in balance with all of the other resource values that the American people expect us to," said Paul Mcguire of the Bureau Land of Management. "Of course it's not ideal to for us to place horses in the holding facilities, but we have to look out for the care of the land too, horses are just one aspect."
While the BLM held its Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting, horse advocates held a news conference in the same hotel put on by the Cloud Foundation, the Wild Horse Freedom Federation and Respect4Horses.
"Oklahomans, just don't want a horse slaughter plant here," said Debra Miller, a local horse owner. "It seems like everyone pro-slaughter has something to gain from it."
Equine lovers are also challenging two bills moving through the state house and senate, HB 1999 and SB 375, which would allow horse slaughter for the first time Oklahoma after half a century.
"These bills have been pushed through so fast that Oklahomans have had no chance whatsoever to let their legislators know how they really feel," said Simone Netherlands of Respect4Horses. "It's going to take Oklahoma's and Americans to stand up for what they believe in, and they are not happy right now, with Oklahoma legislation.
So advocates are taking their chance to sound off, and organizers say more than 80 percent of the state is against slaughtering horses for human consumption. Oklahoma's bills don't call for horse meat consumption in the U.S. but right now, the Department of Agriculture is considering a measure in New Mexico that would allow equine meat suitable for that purpose.