The ongoing battle between advocates for wild horses and those who say the horse population needs to be curbed is likely heading for another showdown if Congress approves revised language in the Interior Department's 2018 budget that would allow for more horses to be destroyed.
An amendment introduced by Representative Chris Stewart of Utah removed language that had previously prohibited the destruction of healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros by the BLM. Following a recommendation made by the BLM, the Trump administration has asked Congress to remove the longstanding limits on destroying the horses or selling them for slaughtering and processing for commercial products. Stewart says that his amendment is a compromise that would allow for the horses to be put down, but would not include the administration's request to allow the them to be slaughtered for commercial uses or consumption by humans.
Supporters of the amendment say that there are currently thousands more wild horses and burros on public lands than the land can support, and that taxpayers are already paying $50 million a year to keep about 47,000 horses in holding facilities. Representative Stewart says that the horses are significantly impacting rangeland and in many cases are starving to death.
Critics of the plan say it would amount to a ‘license to kill' – allowing the BLM to kill as many as 90,000 horses. They say the agency needs to make greater use of fertility control treatments that have been used on herds previously.