A federal agency yesterday started removing nearly 1,000 wild horses from the Devil’s Garden territory in California’s Modoc National Forest. Animals more than 10 years old who are not adopted could be sold to “kill buyers” for a dollar and then end up in a slaughterhouse in Canada or Mexico. All of this is being done on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime, despite the fact that most Americans and Congress clearly oppose horse slaughter.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are calling on the U.S. Forest Service, which is conducting these removals, to stop immediately and work with us to implement a humane fertility control plan in conjunction with sensible removals where all horses are placed for adoption.

In 1998, Californians passed, by a significant vote, a ballot measure to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption. After this latest roundup was announced, Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to make the case for protecting these wild horses under the state’s law.

Congress has also taken clear steps to end horse slaughter for both domestic and wild horses. For most years since 2005, U.S. appropriations bills have included language to keep horse slaughter plants closed in the United States. Congress has also restricted the Bureau of Land Management from knowingly allowing wild horses and burros to go to slaughter through appropriations language.

Unfortunately, no such restriction exists for the U.S. Forest Service, and that’s the loophole this agency is trying to exploit with this latest horse removal. It’s playing right into the hands of kill buyers, who funnel thousands of American horses each year into the horse meat trade. Because slaughter for human consumption is prohibited in the United States, the horses are transported to Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses.

For most of us, the very idea of slaughtering these magnificent animals who roam the plains and mountains of the American west, and having them served up on foreign dinner plates, is abhorrent. A poll shows that 80 percent of Americans are opposed to sending horses to slaughter for human consumption.

What most Americans do support is humanely managing wild horse populations through fertility control – a solution the agency has failed to adopt in a meaningful way. In fact, even now, as it rounds up the horses, the U.S. Forest Service is doing nothing to prevent populations from continuing to grow after this removal. They have stated that they plan on using fertility control tools only after the population of horses has reached their desired management level of 402 horses within the territory.

This is a foolish plan at best, and a cruel one at worst. According to the agency’s own estimate, the population of wild horses in Modoc is now around 3,900. So under the agency’s currently planned scenario, the population of horses would continue to grow and the service would continue to conduct more removals, potentially sending many more horses to slaughter, before they begin fertility control. It makes no sense, and no American should stand for this.

We understand fully that there are major challenges in managing wild horses and burros, but continuing a cycle of removals that result in horses going to slaughter is not an option that should even be on the table. We need a better plan, and that plan is within reach. Stakeholders, including the HSUS, HSLF, and other wild horse groups, are eager to work with the U.S. Forest Service to implement a humane and effective fertility control plan that manages wild horse populations without indiscriminate removal. It won’t be easy, but it is doable. And we owe it to these iconic animals.

Please contact the U.S. Forest Service-Modoc National Forest Office and leave a polite message letting them know you are opposed to any removed horses being sold without limitation, which would leave them at risk of going to slaughter. You can email them at modoc_info@fs.fed.us or call 530-233-8738.