The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wrongly sold hundreds of federally protected wild horses to a Colorado rancher who in turn sold most the animals to be slaughtered for horse meat, according to a new watchdog report.
The U.S. Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which released the report Friday, concluded that the BLM did not follow the law in selling 1,794 horses to rancher Tom Davis, who reportedly has claimed to have connections to former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The deals were conducted through the agency’s Wild Horse and Burro Program – the program established to protect, manage and control the wild horse population.
The BLM sold horses to Davis between 2008 and 2012 for roughly $10 a horse, transactions that led the agency to lose money since they spent tens of thousands of dollars on transport. With the purchase of the animals, Davis became the largest buyer of wild horses in the United States.
Davis told investigators he then was able to sell a “load” of 35 horses for as much as $4,000, making $2,500-$3,000 profit on each sale. Despite signing a contract with the BLM agreeing not to send the horses to slaughter, he admitted to the inspector general that he sold “probably close to all of them” to Mexico to be slaughtered.
“During our investigation, Davis admitted that most of the horses that he purchased through WH&B ultimately went to slaughter. We determined that BLM did not follow current law while managing WH&B,” the report said, noting that the BLM did not follow its own policy of limiting horse sales and ensuring horses sold were not slaughtered.
The slaughter of horses for meat violated a congressional ban on the practice as well as BLM policy.