Despite Slaughter of Wild Horses, No Prosecution of BLM or Rancher Involved

Published November 20, 2015

Just two weeks after Ken Salazar was selected by President Barack Obama to become the 50th Secretary of the Interior in 2009, the Bureau of Land Managment (BLM), an agency within the Department of Interior (DOI) sold and began shipping horses to rancher, and reported Salazar associate, Tom Davis, who in turn, in violation of the law resold them to slaughter houses in Mexico for horse meat. 

A report released by the DOI’s Office of the Inspector General in late October, concluded the BLM did not follow the law in selling 1,794 horses to rancher Tom Davis. The sales 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. The agency lost money on the transactions since they spent tens of thousands of dollars on transport. By contrast, according to Davis he resold “loads” 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. With the volume of horses Davis purchases he became the largest buyer of wild horses in the United States. 

The Inspector General’s report states, “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. According to the report, 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.

Animal Advocates Critical

Despite the Davis’s reported ties to Secretary Salazar, the IG’s office “determined that this matter did not warrant further investigation.” The IG did refer Davis’ conduct to both the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado as well as the State of Colorado Conejos County District Attorney’s Office. Neither office chose to bring either civil or criminal charges.

According to the report, WH&B marketing specialist who approved the sales to Davis received “exceptional or superior” reviews, complete with bonuses between 2008 and 2012.

Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, while pleased this case has been brought to light is critical of the lack of prosecution. “The report paints a picture of government incompetence and a deliberate attempt to skirt the law,” Roy was quoted as saying in an October 26 Fox News article. 

“This seems to have become status quo for BLM. They fervently declare and defend that they have a policy or protocol. When you bring things to the public that prove they do not follow said policy protocol they simply say ‘oops, it did occur but we have done nothing wrong,'” says Laura Leigh, of the Wild Horse Education blog, in an email sent to “Then the agency gets offended that the public has no trust in any action they take. Until there is actual consequence, there will be no trust.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.