Slaughterhouses denied as activists buy stray horses

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With the financial backing of a California winery owner, activists successfully saved 174 horses – up for sale at a state-sanctioned auction – from the slaughterhouse... by buying them.

Jill Starr, president of Lifesavers, said high bidders of such horses are usually representatives of slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. The meat of the horses is processed for sale in Europe and Asia, where it fetches as much as $25 a pound (0.45 kilogram), she added.

Stephanie Hoefener of the Lancaster, California-based Livesavers Wild Horse Rescue group said activists purchased 172 horses for $31,415. The other two horses were acquired by private individuals for their personal use, she said. "We're excited so many people came together to save the horses," Hoefener said. "This is amazing and we all feel joyful."

The horses were rounded up by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last month near the Nevada-Utah line and turned over to the Nevada Department of Agriculture for disposal.

Agriculture department officials acknowledge the stray horses could have wound up at slaughterhouses because they did not have the federal protections afforded to wild-roaming horses.

The horses are believed to be strays or descendants of horses abandoned by private owners over the years. The BLM has launched an effort to remove thousands of wild horses from the range across the West, saying round-ups are necessary because the mustang population is growing so rapidly that the animals are running out of food.