A herd of 41 horses abandoned on public land were rounded up in March and sold to a Canadian slaughterhouse.
Sarah Beckwith, a spokesman for the Worland office of the BLM, confirmed that on March 18-19, 41 unauthorized horses were rounded up on land between Greybull and Lovell. The horses were turned over to the Wyoming Livestock Board.
“They went to the Worland Sale Barn and were sold to the highest bidder,” WLB Brand Commissioner Lee Romsa said. “The highest bidder was Bovary Exports. They were shipped from Worland to Shelby, Mont. I’m not sure what they do.”
Bovary Exports is a firm based in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, that slaughters horses for meat.
BLM does not sell wild horses for slaughter. But at the time the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed, wild horses were defined as existing herds living on wild horse management areas.
“These were abandoned,” Beckwith said. “The original owner of the herd, Andy Gifford, kept the herd for rodeo stock. As time went by he was unable to round them up. When he passed away about eight years ago his children wouldn’t claim them.”
The original herd multiplied and was in trespass on private irrigated pasture and public lands, according to Beckwith.
“When no one comes forward to claim livestock, cattle, horses or sheep, we post notice of intent to impound unclaimed livestock and they become the property of the state.
Beckwith said there hasn’t been a roundup of this sort in the area for several years.
But horse expert Nanette Till said abandonment of horses on public lands is a problem around the country.
“People can’t take care of them or don’t want to and don’t have the guts to put them down humanely, so they abandon them.” Till said. “People think they can survive but, of course, they can’t. They suffer an agonizing death.”
According to Till, since all slaughterhouses for horses shut down in the U.S., the alternative is to ship them to Canada or Mexico.
Patricia Fazio, statewide coordinator for the Wyoming Wild Horse Coalition, said selling the horses for slaughter was not justified, and the herd may be remnants of a wild horse herd that formerly inhabited the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Area.
In a letter to the WLD, Fazio said, “All activities surrounding horse slaughter are, in my view (and in the view of 80 percent of Americans) callous, brutal and extremely inhumane.”
Fazio said the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign has hired an attorney to investigate whether any laws have been violated.
(Steve Browne can be reached at email@example.com.)