The U.S. Forest Service will corral up to 1,000 wild horses and make them available for adoption or sell them distant slaughterhouses after a 30-day waiting period.
The roundup, which starts Tuesday and goes through the end of the month, targets horses in the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in the Modoc National Forest, a 233,000-square-acre area designated for up to 400 horses, which currently has nearly 4,000.
“It sounds like a lot of acres for 4,000 horses, but there’s not a lot of vegetation and not a lot of water,” Amana McAdams, the Modoc National Forest supervisor, told the Sacramento Bee.
It is the first “horse gather” in 13 years.
“Basically everything we are doing is new,” Ken Sandusky, Forest Service spokesman, told the Bee. “The other option is long-term holding, which makes unlimited sale the only fiscally responsible option.”
All of the horses will be made available for adoption. After 30 days, all horses 10 years and older, about 300 animals, will be made available for sale without limitations, the American Wild Horse Campaign, an animal rights group, said.
Although the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits selling horses and burros under its supervision to slaughterhouses, the Forest Service, which falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has no such restriction.
The government is exploiting a legal loophole, the animal rights group told the Bee.
“It’s a sad irony that the first federally protected wild horses in decades to be purposefully sold by the government for slaughter will come from California — a state where the cruel practice of horse slaughter has been banned since the 1990’s,” Suzanne Roy, executive director of the horse campaign, said in a release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.