A local lawmaker introduced a joint resolution in the Wyoming Legislature this month asking Congress to allow equine slaughter and processing in the United States.
Wyoming Rep. John Winter, R-Thermopolis, who represents a portion of Fremont County, is the main sponsor of House Joint Resolution 3, which was approved on first reading Monday in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
“The main reason why I brought this forward is to try to get the attention of our Congressional delegation and whoever else is in power to recognize that wild horses are a problem in (the) western United States,” Winter told the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee last week. “We need to do something to have better management of these animals.”
The resolution notes that wild horses have “virtually no natural predators,” so their populations “can double every four to five years if left unchecked” and “unduly infringe upon other (rangeland) uses.”
The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service can remove wild horses and burros from their jurisdictions by having “old, sick, or lame” animals “destroyed in the most humane manner possible,” having “excess” wild horses “humanely captured for private adoption,” or having “excess” animals “destroyed in the most humane and cost-efficient manner possible,” according to the resolution.
But even with those methods available, the resolution says federal agencies “are increasingly unable to adequately manage wild horse and burro populations” due to multiple factors, including “exponential increases in the number of wild horses and burros on the range,” “difficulties in adopting or selling wild horses and burros,” and “lawsuits prohibiting or stalling gathers and removals.”
When it comes to slaughtering the animals, Winter said “there’s really no places to take these horses at all.”
HJ 3 says horse slaughter for human consumption has been “effectively banned” in the United States since 2007, when the federal government denied funding for the inspection of equine slaughter facilities in the food production process – and in 2022, the Department of Interior prohibited use of funds for the “destruction of healthy animals or for sales of animals that result in processing into commercial products.”
The United States has used “neighboring countries to provide equine slaughter services” in the past, the resolution states, but “the capacity of those neighboring countries to provide these services is limited … and has been degraded by the closure of facilities as well as the challenges associated with transporting animals long distances.”
“Effective and humane management of wild horses and burros can be best accomplished by facilitating the United States’ own capacity to transport and process wild horses and burros,” the resolution states, asking the federal government to “enact legislation and make other necessary policy changes to allow … for equine slaughter and processing for shipment to accommodating markets.”
The joint resolution received support during last week’s committee meeting from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, whose government affairs director Jess Johnson pointed to the work Tribal governments have undertaken to address feral horses on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
“This is a great bill to keep pushing that forward,” Johnson said.
HJ 3 must be approved two more times in the House before it heads to the Wyoming Senate for consideration.