OKLAHOMA CITY - Wild horse activists held a rally in downtown Oklahoma City Monday in an effort to save Oklahoma's horses from the slaughter house.
They were hoping to influence an annual meeting of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the nation's wild horse and burro populations on public land.
BLM Public Affairs Specialist Paul McGuire said when they capture wild horses, their goal is to have them eventually adopted.
"If wild horses and burros were not managed, they would very quickly overrun the carrying capacity of the land that they inhabit," McGuire said. "Destroying both the land as well as the herds themselves, (they) would suffer greatly."
The rally outside the Sheraton Hotel was organized by Respect 4 Horses, the Cloud Foundation and the Wild Horse Freedom Federation.
"We now have less than 20,000 wild horses and burros left," Simone Netherlands said, the Director for Respect 4 Horses. "If they were any other species, they would be on the endangered species list right now."
But BLM said there are twice that many and their population needs to be controlled.
Activists want BLM to stop rounding up wild horses and they also accuse the government of allowing "kill buyers" to purchase BLM's captured horses for the sole purpose of selling the meat in other countries.
"BLM does not, as a matter of policy, sell horses to known kill buyers and we certainly don't sell horses directly to slaughter," McGuire said.
Netherlands said they are also concerned about House Bill 1999 and Senate Bill 375, which would allow for horse slaughter houses to be built in Oklahoma.
"If we do this, we might as well open dog and cat slaughter plants as well," she said.
But Rep. Skye McNiel (R Dist. 29), author of HB 1999, said 160,000 horses are shipped out of the U.S. every year (21,000 from Oklahoma) and are inhumanely destroyed.
She said having a slaughter house in Oklahoma would protect horses who are aging or ill from dying a horrible death.
McNiel said they would follow humane USDA standards as well, similar to those regulating the slaughter of cattle.
The BLM said no major policy changes would be decided Monday.