By Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review Journal
CARSON CITY - Advocates bought 41 stray horses at a Fallon auction this week but fear 12 domesticated horses purchased by others will be slaughtered and used for human consumption.
Carroll Abel, a board member of the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund, said Friday she was "guardedly optimistic" that wild horse advocates in coming weeks can reach an agreement with the state Department of Agriculture and take all captured state-owned horses to prevent any more slaughters.
The horses bought by several advocate groups Wednesday were not the wild horses protected under federal law that have been rounded up on federally managed land. Instead they are among the 2,500 horses found in the Virginia Range near Virginia City on private and state land. They are not protected from slaughter under state laws and legally called "estray" or stray horses. Dozens are killed in road accidents each year.
Cat Kindsfather, a horse advocate in Carson City, said she spoke with a woman loading the 12 horses into a trailer after the auction and was told they were being transported for slaughter.
Kindsfather said those were not stray horses, and instead were being sold by their owners who cannot afford to care for them, or no longer want the horses. Most were older mares and clearly had been domestic horses, she said.
"I don't know the reason why they want to get rid of them. I don't understand why someone could do this," she said.
In recent days, the Department of Agriculture has reopened negotiations with wild horse advocates on a new plan to give the horses to the advocate groups and let them care and find homes for them.
Until last summer, the department was selling them to the advocacy groups for $90 each. Abel said they paid an average $266 for each horse they bought this week and have purchased 153 horses since September.
She said Nevada horses typically are shipped to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico. Horse meat is popular in France and Asia.