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June 22, 2017

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Trump budget would allow sale of wild horses for slaughter

PALOMINO VALLEY, Nevada — U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for saving US$10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won't be resold for slaughter.

Wild horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of protection for wild horses — an icon of the American West — and could send thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as food.

They say the Trump administration is kowtowing to livestock interests who don't want the region's estimated 59,000 mustangs competing for precious forage across more than 103,600 sq. kilometers of rangeland in 10 states managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The budget proposal marks the latest skirmish in the decades-old controversy pitting ranchers and rural communities against groups that want to protect the horses from Colorado to California.

"This is simply a way to placate a very well-funded and vocal livestock lobby," Laura Leigh, president of the nonprofit protection group Wild Horse Education, said about the budget proposal.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other interests have been urging BLM for years to allow sales of wild horses for slaughter to free up room in overcrowded government corrals for the capture of more animals.

Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, blamed the stalemate on the "emotional and anti-management interests who have built their business models on preventing rational and responsible actions while enhancing their fundraising through misinformation."

Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also grappled with the spiraling costs of managing the nearly 60,000 horses on the range and another 45,000 currently kept in U.S. holding pens and contracted private pastures.

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