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America's Effort to End Horse Slaughter
Part One of a Series

A brief modern history.

Just before the Congressional Thanksgiving recess in 2004, Montana Senator Conrad Burns slipped a stealth rider into a bill that was in a committee that he controlled. The rider directed that tens of thousands of wild horses in the custody of BLM were to be put up for sale "without limitation." Since the only market for so many ungentled and unpedigreed horses was the slaughter market, the Burns Rider would have potentially made the US Government the greatest contributor of horses for slaughter in American history.

Senator Burns was already known for his views on this subject. Some months earlier the following quote appeared in the Billings Gazette. "I think what we should do is put some language in this thing that allows the BLM to sell excess wild horses," Burns said. "I'd prefer to sell 'em to whomever. Maybe some of them will end up going to slaughter." View complete article.

What nobody expected was that Senator Burns would dare overturn a long standing federal law, one that had been passed unanimously in 1971 by both houses of Congress, in secret without public debate or even the knowledge of most legislators.

Senator Burns' actions ignited a firestorm. Horse groups and Animal advocacy groups banded together to attack this bit of sneak legislation. Since the rider addressed America's wild horses, dozens of wild horse advocacy groups that would ordinarily remain focused on range and adoption issues joined the main fight. Two major functional alliances resulted, the National Planning Group in Washington, DC (primarily focused on the legislative arena) and the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates (primarily focused on public activities.)

Various legislators in Congress attempted to submit legislation that would overturn the Burns Rider and were vigorously opposed. These are discussed in Part Two.

Continue to Part Two