Lawmakers voted Thursday to block a six-month-old law that allowed the government to sell wild horses and burros, with opponents of the law protesting that the animals were ending up in processing plants and on the tables of foreign restaurants.
The 249-159 House vote would stop the Bureau of Land Management from using any money in a $26.2-billion bill funding next year’s natural resources and arts programs to sell horses that roam public lands in Western states.
The measure overturns a provision in a spending bill passed in December that ended a 33-year-old policy of protecting wild horses from sale or processing. The horses, said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), shouldn’t be sold so they “can end up on the menus of France, Belgium and Japan.”
Other programs in the bill, which funds the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency, absorbed a 3% spending cut from this year’s $27 billion. Lawmakers shrank grants for local water projects and boosted money for National Park Service operations. It passed 329-89.
The House action on horses came as the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that it was resuming the sale of wild horses and burros but with tougher restrictions against sales for slaughter. The agency last month temporarily halted sales after 41 horses were killed.
The agency’s revised contract requires that buyers agree they will not knowingly purchase horses intending to resell, trade or give the animals to a slaughterhouse.
Since lawmakers enacted the horse sales law in December, the BLM sold and delivered 1,000 horses. Another 1,000 have been sold but remain undelivered, and those agreements will be reviewed.
“Our agency is committed to the well-being of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range,” said BLM Director Kathleen Clarke.
The law let the agency sell wild horses and burros that were more than 10 years old, or younger if they had been passed over for adoption three times.
BLM says 37,000 wild horses and burros forage its lands, 9,000 more than Western ranges can sustain. The agency has removed about 10,000 each year to manage the population.
Each year, 6,000 to 7,000 get adopted, and the agency currently cares for about 22,500 in holding facilities in the West and Midwest.