The single largest buyer of wild horses in the United States has been accused of re-selling nearly 2,000 mustangs to slaughterhouses, according to a recent report from the Office of Inspector General U.S. Department of the Interior. Although the wild horses were sold with the condition that they not be re-sold for slaughter, the report found that the Bureau of Land Management did not take appropriate measures to ensure mustangs sold between 2009 and 2012 didn’t end up at slaughterhouses.
At the heart of the controversy is Tom Davis, a rancher and livestock hauler from Colorado. Between the years of 2008 and 2012, Davis was the nation’s largest buyer of wild horses under the Wild Horse and Burro Program, which allows the Bureau of Land Management to sell off animals to control herd populations.
According to the Denver Post, Davis bought 1,794 mustangs from the BLM between 2008 and 2012, with the next largest buyer only purchasing 325.
When the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was made law in the 1970s, it prevented the BLM from selling animals for slaughter or for resale to slaughterhouses. An amendment in 2005 directed the BLM to sell “excess” animals without conditions, according to a report from NBC News, but the BLM has not yet complied with the conditions in that amendment.
Accusations of wrongdoing on the part of Tom Davis were first made years ago, but the livestock hauler denied selling any horses for slaughter at that time.
According to NBC News, Davis told the BLM that the horses he bought would be used for a number of purposes, including “use for movies” and “put on oil fields… to keep grass controlled.”
At the time the accusations were first made, Joan Guilfoyle, chief of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, denied that the BLM had any knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of Tom Davis.
“We have no knowledge of him being a person who has ill intent toward the horses,” Guilfoyle told NBC News, “so there was no reason to question the purchase of these [animals] because he has to sign the paper that says what his intention is.”
A report on the matter that was issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior on October 23, 2015, tells a different story. The report relates to an investigation into the activities of Tom Davis, but it also tells a scathing tale of mismanagement by the BLM, according to the Denver Post.
“During our investigation, Davis admitted that most of the horses that he purchased through WH&B ultimately went to slaughter. We determined that BLM did not follow current law while managing WH&B. BLM also failed to follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring
that the horses sold went to good homes and were not slaughtered.”
Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, told the Washington Times that the OIG investigation only confirmed what everyone already knew.
“It took more than three years for the OIG to confirm what we’ve always known,” Roy told the Washington times, “that the BLM sold 1,795 federally-protected wild horses to a known kill buyer who sold them to slaughter.”
According to the OIG report, Davis told investigators, “that in selling him so many loads of horses, BLM had to know that the horses would end up at a slaughterhouse.”
The Washington Times reports that Davis paid very little for the wild horses and made tremendous profits selling them to slaughterhouses in Mexico.
The wild horses were sold to Davis for just $10 a head, and he re-sold them for $100. According to the Washington Times, the rancher could have turned a profit of over $150,000 on the nearly 1,800 mustangs he bought from the BLM.
According to NBC News, Davis has long been a proponent of slaughtering wild horses for meat, and the rancher even tried to open his own slaughter plant for horses in Colorado at one point.
NBC News also reported that Davis was quoted extolling the virtues of horse meat.
“Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt. What is wrong with taking all those BLM horses they got all fat and shiny and setting up a kill plant?”
Although the OIG investigation found both Tom Davis and the BLM at fault in the matter of selling wild horses for slaughter, no actions were taken.
“Unfortunately, there will be no justice for these mustangs, who suffered a brutal death in Mexican slaughter plants,” Suzanne Roy told the Washington Times. “No one at the BLM is being held accountable for this betrayal, and Tom Davis is not being prosecuted for violating his contractual obligation to not sell the horses for slaughter.”
The BLM is no longer selling wild horses to Davis, and officials from the bureau have indicated that new protections are in place to prevent this type of thing from happening again.
Do you think that’s enough, or should someone have to face consequences for the sale of so many wild horses to slaughterhouses?
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]