"With the financial backing of the wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and others, activists on Saturday purchased almost all 174 horses up for sale at a state-sanctioned auction in Nevada to keep the horses from going to the slaughterhouse.
"Stephanie Hoefener of the Lancaster, Calif.-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.
"The horses were rounded up by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management 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 in Pilot Valley north of West Wendover.
''For advocacy groups to step up to the plate and make a financial commitment like this to save the horses, we think this is a wonderful thing,'' Nevada Department of Agriculture spokesman Ed Foster said.
"Jill Starr, president of Lifesavers, said the purchase of the horses at the Fallon auction was made possible by the financial backing of Madeleine Pickens and other donors.
"Starr said high bidders of such horses usually are 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, she added. "