This year I was principal co-author of AB 128 (Gloria), which requires any person purchasing a horse at auction, many of which are rounded up on public lands, to sign a sworn statement that the animal won’t be sold for slaughter. Since 1971, federal law has required the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to manage wild horses. While the BLM has prohibited the sale of healthy horses to slaughterhouses, the Forest Service has not enforced a similar prohibition.
Earlier this year I also signed a letter, along with many of my colleagues, to Senators Feinstein and Harris asking that the Senate include language in Interior Appropriations legislation prohibiting the destruction of federally protected wild horses and burros, and their sale for slaughter. Fortunately, the House and Senate have just agreed to include that language in their appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year.
Few Americans eat horsemeat -- the last horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007. California voters weighed in on this issue in 1998 by passing Proposition 6, which bans the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. Nevertheless, horses have continued to be shipped out of the country for slaughter, destined for dinner tables in some Asian and European countries.
In 2018, California's Devil’s Garden Plateau, a preserve near the Oregon border, became seriously over-crowded with almost 4,000 wild horses in an area that could only support about 400. Hundreds of mostly younger animals would be available for adoption, but after 30 days, older horses could be sold for as little as $1 each. Those animals might go to sanctuaries, become ranch or pack horses, or sent to slaughter.
This was clearly not the voters' intent when Proposition 6 was approved. With passage of AB 128 and recent congressional action, both federal and state governments are moving to finally ban horse slaughter.