SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Vicki Christiansen, today urged the Secretary and the Chief to reverse their decision allowing the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) to offer California’s wild horses for sale without restriction. California law prohibits the possession or sale of horses with the intent of using them for human consumption. Additionally, federal law prohibits the Department of the Interior, which manages most of the country’s wild horses, from selling horses to be used in commercial products. The Forest Service has traditionally followed the practice of the Department of the Interior and has historically respected California’s law. However, the Forest Service is now changing its policy, stating that some of the horses under its management may be put up for unconditional sale after 90 days.
“To slaughter for commercial consumption mustangs that have roamed California for over a century is not only atrocious, but unlawful,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “These majestic animals captivate the imagination and symbolize the rugged independence of the American West. We urge the federal government to treat the Modoc National Forest and its wildlife with the respect that it is due by protecting these beautiful wild horses from the commercial slaughterhouse.”
In California, wild horses roam public lands throughout the state, including the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, an area of more than 250,000 acres in Modoc National Forest. Occasional roundups of wild horses are a typical part of wildlife and land management. The Forest Service initiated the current wild horse roundup in October to reduce the horse populations in Modoc National Forest. In the roundup, the U.S. Forest Service will gather 1,000 protected wild horses. Attorney General Becerra cautions in the letter that selling the horses to a buyer planning to use the animals for human consumption is a felony under California law with a potential penalty of up to three years in prison.
Under management by the Forest Service, the auction of protected horses will be offered in two phases: in the first phase of sales, the Forest Service will prioritize the adoption of wild horses by members of the public who are able to care for them, and will impose conditions to require buyers follow California law. However, after January 10, 2019, the Forest Service will offer the remaining horses for sale unconditionally, including without the conditions imposed by California law. In the letter, the Attorney General warns Secretary Perdue that by reversing the Department’s policy and allowing sales without restrictions, the Forest Service and buyers risk violating California law.
A copy of the letter is attached to the electronic version of this press release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.