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NEAR TOPPENISH, Wash. - The Confederated Tribes of the Yakama have filed a legal challenge to the White House s ban on federal inspections of horse processing plants.

Tribal leaders said the ban effectively ends horse trapping that has been practiced by tribal members for generations. Some of the horses are sold to ranches, some kept and trained by tribal members, but most are sold for slaughter and exported to countries in Europe and Asia where horse meat is widely enjoyed.

Tribal council members said the result is there is no money to be made by capturing horses so the population of wild horses has exploded to an estimated 12,000 mustangs. Tribal Fish and Wildlife managers said the reservation only has enough land and vegetation to support a few thousand wild horses.

Yakama Tribal Council Member Virgil Lewis Sr. said the tribe has had a long standing love and respect for wild horses but there are too many now and they are robbing grasses and other range land food needed to support elk and deer herds.

Tribal Trapper Ed Gunnier Jr. said the horses are eating themselves out of house and home and are beginning to die off from starvation.

Groups like the Humane Society of the United States are actively fighting plans by the Yakama and other tribes to end the ban on processing house inspections.

Washington State Director Dan Paul said there have been successful contraceptive programs with other herds where male horses are darted with contraceptive drugs on an annual basis. He said wild horses cannot be treated like other farm animals raised for slaughter. He said horses panic and injure themselves and workers when they are captured. He argued that all other means of control should be tried before slaughter.

Yakama Fish and Wildlife managers told KING 5 they have tried to capture and sell the horses for a dollar each but nobody wants them. They said the high costs of hay and other horse related expenses are making it hard to get rid of them and even have people dropping off unwanted horses on the reservation where they join up with the mustangs.

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