In the northeast corner of Northern California sits the Modoc National Forest, which is home to thousands of wild horses who roam the land. The number of wild horses has grown significantly over the past decade, forcing officials to conduct their first “horse gather” in over 12 years, which may send the beautiful beasts to the slaughterhouse.
The land, known as the Devil’s Garden, is meant to sustain a certain amount of wild horses, and with the population growth, there aren’t enough management resources or food and water for the animals.
“Our territory is supposed to have 206 to 402 animals, we have almost 4,000 horses,” Modoc National Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams said in a statement. “It sounds like a lot of acres for 4,000 horses, but there’s not a lot of vegetation and not a lot of water.”
The U.S. Forest Service is set to begin the roundup of wild horses on October 9 and last through the month of October.
There’s controversy surrounding the horse gather as animal rights activists wonder what they’ll do with the horses once they’re captured. The American Wild Horse Campaign is concerned that although the horses will be put up for adoption, a legal loophole will allow slaughterhouses to get their hands on the animals.
While the U.S. Department of the Interior — which oversees most of America’s wild horses and burros — prohibits selling them to slaughterhouses, the Forest Service is underneath the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has no such restriction.
All of the horses will be made available for adoption, but after a 30-day period, the horses over the age of 10-years-old will be made available for sale without limitations for $1 each, “allowing kill buyers to purchase a truckload of 36 horses once a week until they are gone, with the horses then shipped to Canada for slaughter,” according to the AWHC.
“It’s a sad irony that the first federally protected wild horses in decades to be purposefully sold by the government for slaughter will come from California — a state where the cruel practice of horse slaughter has been banned since the 1990’s,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the AWHC, in a statement.
All parties agree that the wild horse population has reached an uncontrollable situation. The roundup will allow range and riparian ecological conditions to recover, while also supporting wild horse herd health by reducing competition for limited food, water and habitat.
The debate lies within the speedy removal of the animals. The AWHC argues that the only way for the horses to be safe from slaughterhouses, the Forest Service should remove the animals from the area in small increments. This would allow potential owners the time necessary to properly adopt the animals.
More information about the roundup, including how horses can be adopted, is available here.