Posts tagged ‘holding pens’

August 6, 2011

Federal Probe Raises Questions About 47 Siezed BLM Horses Going Out of Holding Pens to Alleged Slaughter Ring

 

Horseback Magazine

By Steven Long, Chute Photo by Laura Leigh, Chase Photo by Terry Fitch
released August 6, 2011

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – The secretive federal Bureau of Land Management has long kept the doors of the giant taxpayer funded pastures where thousands of wild horses are warehoused, well, closed.

But while the doors were closed to press and public, they may have been wide open to a well known Utah killer buyer who was caught hauling 47 older wild horses allegedly to slaughter in Mexico or Canada. The investigation includes BLM enforcement agents, the FBI, several state agencies, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in possibly two or more states.

Multiple individuals are targets of the probe. Department of Transportation registration for a cattle truck shown in video by Salt Lake television station KSL was traced by respected animal welfare investigators Animals Angels to Willard, Utah based DK Ranches owned by alleged killer buyer Dennis Kunz.

“There have been suspicions of BLM involvement in the trafficking of wild horse to slaughter since the early 1990s when a formal Grand Jury probe was instigated” said documentary filmmaker Ginger Kathrens whose three PBS ”Nature” specials on an iconic horse named Cloud have captivated millions.  “The Cloud Foundation has been asking for full public access to all facilities where mustangs are being warehoused for years.”

Kathrens remembers the earlier probe well, but believes chicanery from higher up brought the investigation to a halt.

“Before the first witness could testify in the hearing in a Del Rio, Texas courtroom, the plug was pulled and the investigation findings were never released,” Kathrens told Horseback Online.  “Implicated in the investigation are people still employed by the BLM. In fact one employee with the Wild Horse and Burro Program is in charge of the facilities for the Agency. I have no idea whether there is a any link to these same employees or not.”

“Wild Horse and Burro advocates have always fostered a nagging suspicion that our national icons were being shuttled out the back door of long term holding to slaughter, and this incident validates that fear,” said longtime wild horse advocate and author R.T. Fitch, president of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

“But the larger question is why did the BLM intervene and what makes this incident different from the possible hundreds before it, something doesn’t add up,” he said.

Tom Gorey, Chief Washington spokesman for the BLM, was unavailable for comment Saturday. It is unknown if anybody has been charged in the alleged BLM slaughter ring, or if any agency employees are suspects.

Jerry Finch is the founder and driving force of Habitat for Horses, a Hitchcock based rescue that has handled some of the most difficult seizures in recent history.

“For the BLM to suddenly be concerned about America’s horses going to slaughter is laughable,” he told Horseback Magazine late Saturday.  ”Since former Senator Burns gave them the out to dump horse by the truckload, s, they have been disappearing by the hundreds, if not by the thousands. That this truckload was stopped means that someone broke the silence of corruption and squealed.”

Since Horseback Magazine began investigations into practices of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, unconfirmed reports have repeatedly reached the magazine claiming the sighting of 18 wheel cattle trucks hauling horses from BLM facilities in the dead of night. The agency has steadfastly denied horses are being taken from pastures and sent to slaughter. However, BLM branded horses are sometimes spotted in USDA holding pastures and at slaughterhouses carrying the BLM brand.

“The BLM refuses to give the public an accurate accounting of the horses they have captured or to allow anyone but their own to see these supposed holding areas except on a very limited basis. Why? What is the BLM hiding?” Finched asked.  ”People are being paid a per horse rate to care and feed these animals. If the horses aren’t there, then where is the money going?”

Gorey states that the BLM does not send horses to slaughter. However, the agency doesn’t keep track of its horses after they are sold, critics say.

It is estimated that there are app. 30,000 horses of all ages housed under lock and key on private property that the agency refuses to grant access to on a routine basis.

The reason, “the horses are on private land,” Gorey has repeatedly stated citing the federal privacy act. According to the BLM, 10,755 wild horses were removed from public lands and placed in giant holding pastures in 2010.

Ranchers in western states frequently call the Mustangs, “the cockroaches of the west” and view them as a nuisance.

The agency has refused to allow an independent audit of the number of horses held privately by ranchers at taxpayer expense, despite the fact that BLM controls app. 243 million acres of mostly vacant land where the horses could be housed for free. The horses compete for grazing land with more than 1 million cattle that inhabit leased pastures at the fire sale rate of $1.35 per cow and calf per month.

The horses seized in Utah are over the age BLM offers for adoption. When such horses are sold, buyers agree not to sell them to slaughter, the BLM says.

The wife of the owner of the cattle truck which carried the horses told Utah reporters for the Deseret News and KSL-TV, “We are known for buying slaughter horses,” she said, “but it was just our truck that was being used.” The woman claimed the horses were Texas bound but not destined for slaughter, despite the fact that Mexican slaughter houses are just across the U.S. Mexico border from El Paso.

Finch, like many others, believes the BLM would rid western lands of all wild horses.

“The next move by the BLM will surely be a cry that they can no longer afford to support all the wild horses they have taken and to ask Congress to add an amendment to allow them to sell horses without restriction. That should make the non-thinking horse haters in Congress squeal in delight.”

”Bottom line, older wild horses should never be removed from their homes on the range and caring BLM employees have said as much to me,” Kathrens said. “Older mustangs are particularly vulnerable, not just because they have trouble adapting to incarceration, but because they are not attractive as adoption animals, making them targets for sale and potential purchase by killer buyers. Are unscrupulous government employees and private contractors involved in the current trafficking case? Until that question can be answered, there should be an immediate halt to round up operations and the subsequent hauling of wild horses to holding facilities where the public is denied access.”

Kathrens is calling for a federal tracking system to document the whereabouts of every wild horse under BLM control. “BLM needs to prove the whereabouts of every animal they have removed, particularly these older animals who have been rounded up in the last few years. If we can track an orange from the time it leaves the grove to the time it is sold at the grocery store, BLM can certainly implement a tracking structure for these federally protected mustangs. Until they can implement this kind of tracking, no wild horses should be removed from the safety of their ranges.”

 

September 18, 2009

Pryor Roundup Sept 3-9, 2009

The costs of the recent Wild Horse roundup on Pryor Mountain….

The BLM rounded up most of the Wild Horses, processed, and will put about 57 Pryor horses (+3 foals) through their adoption program on Sept 26, 2009 leaving only around 120 horses on approx. 32,000 acres.

The helicopter roundup started on Sept 3rd, and many horse bands (families) were driven 10+ miles (one way) from the grassy meadows at the top of the mountain (elevation 8700 ft) to the lower desert elevations, captured, & penned at the Britton Springs Corral where they were processed one at a time.  Some of the horses that had been designated to be removed were not captured because the roundup ended early.  However, others that had already been captured will be taking their place.

A newborn foal at the top of the mountain, and footsore horses are just a few reasons why the roundup ended earlier then planned.  But I have to wonder if the BLM received a phone call from a higher authority to stop because of the intense media coverage and public outrage.

BLM Goals:
Genetic specialists say for safe genetics, a properly managed herd should be closer to 200 head, meanwhile the BLM wants less than 100 head on Pryor and the other Wild Horse Herd Ranges.   Did the BLM authorize and pay for the study yet are ignoring the results?

What did this one roundup cost us?
It may run as high as $150,000 according to Jim Sparks, BLM Field Manager.  (Billings Gazette)    Usually, each roundup only runs around $60,000.

Yet because the BLM refused to change their plans, and they fought hard against the huge public outcry, petitions, flooding of callers, even letters from senators, & lawsuits… it may cost us something like $150,000!

Citizens are still wanting the BLM … to play a better role and properly mange the horses.

We taxpayers, are in a pickle!  We foot the gov’t bills while they refuse to listen to us, and the BLM again depends on the public to adopt these horses, because they may starve in the wild on our public lands!  (Starvation & poor range conditions are the BLM’s biggest excuse for so many roundups)

So according to the BLM, you and I should adopt these poor, unfortunate, almost starving, & overpopulated horses and pay for their lifetime of care.

But wait a minute…
Although I do not live on or near any of the Wild Horse Ranges, I have always been around horses, and I personally have never seen a starving wild horse because of poor range conditions while photographing them. I have seen thin horses due to injuries & old age, but that is how Mother Nature works when you are living wild and free.

Many people claim that the Pryor Mountain Range is in better condition in 2009 than the last several years.

But lets remind the public that horses have died while in the direct care of the BLM!  I can recall one time reading about when the BLM ‘forgot’ about a small herd they had put in a ‘holding area’ that had NO WATER!

The number of adoptions is way down, (was their program ever really successful?) yet higher than normal roundups have been reported in the last few years and many more are planned.  Even 100% elimination for some areas.

Why 100% elimination and large removals?  Hmmm, does greed, gas & oil, even cattle, or just plain bad judgement ring a bell?

Doesn’t this horrible cycle really make you mad, even if you are not a true fan of Wild Horses, and do not appreciate their beauty and the fact that they are living symbols of America’s Wild West and History?

In 1900 there were 2 million wild horses roaming and now there is around 25,000. (some say more like 15,000)

The whole issue and my story here is not just about the horses… its the poor management skills of millions of acres of public land, abuse of power, greed, the over- spending of taxpayers’ money, & not listening to the public outcry.   And now they have authorities at the roundups allowing the public extremely poor & limited access, or no access at all, during roundup activities – on our public lands!  So we too are loosing our freedoms with the BLM!

The BLM is a disaster! A regular business could never survive or exist if they worked like the BLM.

The BLM hires and depends on a contractor to ‘do the dirty work’ and conduct round ups.

There are two helicopter contractors in the US and one of them is Cattoor.

Oh, did I mention that the hired contractor David Cattoor, (Cattoor Livestock Roundup), is a 1992 convicted felon for illegally capturing horses in one state, trucking over state lines, & selling them to a slaughter in Texas? He’s been in the business since 1971, so he knew what he was doing in 1992.

It pays well to be a horse contractor for the gov’t, because Cattoor has reported more than 12 MILLION dollars earned from 2000-2007 and the BLM is his primary customer.  Some say he has earned 20 Million+ rounding up horses.   Really?

Oh, did I mention that felons arn’t supposed to get jobs working for the federal gov’t?

I just do not understand why he has been able to earn so much money from the government if he is a convicted felon.

For the few days that the Cattoor Contractors & Wranglers were ‘just sitting around’ because of the court delay on the roundup, they collected a cool $7,000 per day.

Yes, they even rounded up Cloud, the most famous living Wild Mustang Stallion, despite a huge international uproar.

When many of the horses were released a day or so later, they were still limping & footsore, even the famous Cloud.  Isn’t there a better way to work together on this?

Because of the high media attention (most documented in history) on this recent Pryor Mountain roundup, the amount of injury & round-up related deaths was way lower than the usual.   So what exactly does that say?



Conquistador (Stallion) in 2008

Since Pryor Horses are famous, they will probably all be adopted, (even the older ones like Conquistador, who is 19), instead of being held in the long term holding facility that is already holding 33,000+ head. Well, I hope they will be adopted!

Long Term Holding Costs:
The program’s direct costs for holding animals off the range increased from $7 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007.  For 2008, these costs could account for 74 percent of the program’s budget.

Now for some good news!

Ginger Kathrens’ third Cloud PBS Movie Series,  “Cloud, Challenge of the Stallions” airs Oct 25, 2009 on PBS!

The movie will be fabulous!  But sadly I already know how upset I will be when I again see many of the horses in the movie, as I know that they have already been rounded up and are forever gone from the mountain.

Visit www.thecloudfoundation.org for more info

Cloud’s Image & Ember, (Cloud’s grandchildren) both 2008 foals were removed.

I have had the privilege of photographing and ‘hanging out’ with these beautiful horses.  If you ever get the chance, please visit a wild horse herd – before they are all gone.

-Kathy Weigand