Forest Service Plans to Round Up Hundreds of Wild Horses, Potentially Sell Them for Slaughter

A group of wild horses in Eureka, Nevada, on July 8, 2005. The U.S. Forest Service plans to round up a thousand horses starting October 9. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. Forest Service was reportedly getting ready to round up hundreds of wild horses, and may sell some for slaughter. The "horse gather," which was scheduled to begin on October 9, will take place in Modoc National Forest in northeast California.

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), a group of activists, claimed the government was "exploiting a legal loophole" that would end with the death of a thousand horses. The roundup would be focused on a herd located in the Devil's Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, The Sacramento Bee reported.

In a statement to the newspaper, the Forest Service said the roundup aimed to reduce the overpopulation of wild horses. "Our territory is supposed to have 206 to 402 animals, we have almost 4,000 horses," Modoc National Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams said in a statement.

McAdams said that despite there being 250,000 acres within the national forest, there was "not a lot of vegetation and not a lot of water" to support 4,000 horses.

The AWHC said that the Forest Service used to follow the U.S. Department of the Interior's policy prohibiting the sale of wild horses to slaughterhouses, "but the Trump Administration is starkly changing that policy." The Forest Service technically falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has no such policy regarding wild horses.

The Forest Service did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment. However, spokesman Ken Sandusky told the The Sacramento Bee that this would be the first "horse gather" on public lands in 13 years.

In a statement, Sandusky said the Forest Service worked with a number of partners to get as many wild horses adopted as possible. Sandusky said that despite that effort, the government "cannot be reasonably expected" to adopt all the horses out.

"The other option is long-term holding, which makes unlimited sale the only fiscally responsible option," he added.

The AWHC said that after a 30-day period all horses age 10 and older—around 300 animals—would be up for sale without limitation for $1 each. This would allow "kill buyers to purchase a truckload of 36 horses once a week until they are gone, with the horses then shipped to Canada for slaughter," the group said.

The organization called on the Forest Service to conduct incremental removals of the wild horses to allow the "humane placement of horses."

Additional information about the adoption and sale of older horses is available here.