Valerie James-Patton: Wild horses slaughtered as foreign delicacy, not dog food

In response to Rob Gebhart's story "Some upset with new law regarding wild horses" on Dec 1, I am surprised Mr. Gebhart wrote this article without researching the issue. No. 1, horses are not slaughtered and processed into dog food. Dog food companies have stopped using horse meat for more than 20 years. The meat is unsafe, unhealthy and not fit for dogs. American horses are not raised for food, and so they receive medications, vaccinations, dewormers and various other drugs that stay in the meat and can be toxic. And because of American morals and values, Americans did not like the idea of feeding one pet to another.

Horses sent to slaughter go to foreign-owned slaughter houses in the United States. We don't eat horses in America, but horsemeat is a delicacy overseas. At $15 to $25 a pound, it is far too expensive to be used as dog food, and only the wealthy in other countries can afford to consume it. And, as far as the health issue, there are certain members of Congress who refuse to address this issue.

Congressman Bob Goodlate (Virginia), Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, is holding up a bill in his committee that he says he will kill. This bill is the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR857). It would make it illegal to slaughter horses in America for human consumption and would prohibit the transport of horses or horseflesh out of the United States for human consumption. This bill has well more than 226 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, but until Rep. Goodlatte releases this bill from committee, it cannot be heard for a vote.

On Nov. 20, Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., placed a last-minute rider to the House Omnibus Appropriations Bill that will remove the protection of the wild horse population in the United States. Not only does this rider remove their protection, but it allows these animals to be slaughtered legally for human consumption overseas. This was done just days after Congress passed a bill making Dec. 13 a National Day to Honor the Horse.

Because of pressure from cattle ranchers, who compete with the wild horses on public lands for privately owned cattle grazing, certain members of Congress and the Bureau of Land Management have been trying to reduce the horse population, even though there are 4.5 million cattle on public land and they outnumber the wild horses 150 to 1.

In violation of the 1971 Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act, our government is currently holding 22,000 horses in government holding pens. They plan to capture 9,300 more by Feb. 2005, and nearly 29,000 will be held in government holding facilities by the end of the year. Six Western states already have lost their entire wild horse population. The removal campaign is costing upward of $5,000 for the capture of a single horse. In the wild management -- as mandated by federal law -- would save the taxpayers millions of dollars. The horses themselves have not created the expense to the taxpayers or to the government, but rather it is because of the greed of the government, BLM and the cattle ranchers that they are spending a fortune.

Also a General Accounting Office Study done in 1990 found that range damage on public lands was because of over grazing by poorly managed herds of privately owned cattle. They also found that the wild horses do little or no damage to the land.

The Bureau of Land Management was put in place to protect America's wild horses. They have obviously forgotten their purpose and reason for their structure and should be removed for failing to perform their duty. They were not put in place to secure public lands for grazing cattle, removing the wild horse herds and lining their pockets.

We don't eat horses in America. The wild horses belong to the American people, as our nation's treasures and symbols of a wild and free America. It is not right to allow for their slaughter and consumption by foreign-owned industries for foreign profit.

President Bush is expected to sign this bill Dec 6.

We, as Americans, must speak out now and contact our Representatives and President Bush, and demand that this rider not go forth.

If it is allowed to go forth, our living symbols of a wild and free America, will soon become a memory of our past, consumed on a dinner plate overseas.

Valerie James-Patton

Shingletown, Calif.

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