The latest Nevada lawsuit is based on the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which requires the BLM to “protect the natural ecological balance of all wildlife species which inhabit such lands, and to maintain a current inventory of wild free-roaming horses and burros on given areas of the public lands, and to remove excess animals.”

But plaintiffs in the case charge the BLM is failing to execute its duty by refusing to conduct round-ups of excess horse and burro numbers. They claim the federal agency stopped those activities after it was the subject of an earlier lawsuit filed by animal protection groups, and further charge that federal officials have acted negligently by allowing pressure from those groups to influence the performance of their duties.

BLM has previously indicated they will no longer round up wild horses and burros that might be sold at auction, most probably to wholesale buyers who would load them into overcrowded trailers for long distance transport to slaughter facilities across international borders.

In New Mexico the issue of domestic horse slaughtering continues to heat up. Valley Meat Company claims their facility would provide a needed service prompted by dire drought conditions over the last several years that has resulted in a stressed domestic horse market and excessive animal abandonment.

They say the situation resulted in horses and burros being sold to wholesale buyers at bottom-dollar prices, and contend that these animals face a fate worse than humane slaughter as they are transported in overcrowded trailers long distances to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.

Last July animal protection groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Front Range Equine Rescue were joined by actor Robert Redford, former U.S. Secretary of Energy and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and others, who filed a federal lawsuit in Albuquerque against the USDA, charging the federal agency with failing to follow U.S. environmental laws when it issued a federal permit for Valley Meat Company to open a horse slaughterhouse.

That lawsuit was subsequently thrown out by a federal judge, but an appeal was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver. That appeal was also denied, but in an effort to continue blocking the meat company from opening, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King filed a lawsuit earlier this month alleging the Roswell plant would violate New Mexico's food safety laws, would further result in water quality issues and would violate the state's unfair practices law.