The future looks brighter for thousands of mustangs and burritos which roam wild in the Western United States. The American House of Representatives voted last week to stop a law which allows the government to sell wild horses for slaughter.

The wild horse sales measure was introduced last December as part of a 3,300-page spending bill. Under this regulation, the American Bureau of Land Management can sell “without limitation” mustangs and burritos which are more than 10-years old or have failed to be adopted more than three times. The law makes no provision to prevent them being resold for human consumption. Horse meat is not eaten in America, but there is a market for it in Europe and Asia.

When the welfare implications became clear, the measure caused a public outcry in the United States from either side of the political fence. Four congressmen — Democratic Representative of West Virginia, Nick Rahall, Kentucky Republican, Ed Whitfield, New York Republican, John Sweeney, and South Carolina Democrat John Spratt — laboured to put together a bipartisan amendment to ban wild horse sales.

They presented it to the house on Thursday 19 May, where it was approved by a massive 249 to 159 votes after just 22min of debate. “The very notion that wild American horses would be slaughtered as a food source for consumption abroad has struck a chord with the American people. Tonight, the people’s House of Representatives acted on the will of its constituents,” Congressman Rahall said after the vote.

The amendment now moves to the US Senate, where it may face a tougher battle. Senator Conrad Burns, a Republican from Montana, is the man who introduced the original wild horse sales measure in December and he is determined to keep it in place. “I’m in the livestock business, and I’ve bought and sold horses all my life. Basically, the marketplace works,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last Thursday.

The news of the House of Representative’s vote came at the same time as the Bureau of Land Management announced its intention to resume wild horse sales. The agency had stopped selling mustangs and burritos at the end of April, after it emerged that 41 of them had been resold and slaughtered. To prevent this happening again, the bureau tightened their bill of sale to ensure that buyers won’t be able to resell the horses they purchase for commercial purposes. “Our agency is committed to the well-being of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range,” said Bureau director Kathleen Clarke.

The Bureau has also teamed up with car manufacturer Ford and conservation partnership Take Pride in America to rehome 2,000 mustangs at risk, and help the public raise funds for their upkeep. “The wild mustang embodies the passion, spirit and heritage that are an integral part of the American experience,” said Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford. “We felt compelled to do what we could to help preserve these beautiful, legendary animals.”