Eighty-four groups, including animal advocates and sanctuaries, ranching and conservation groups, as well as artists, called on Congress to maintain legal protections of wild horses in a “Unified Statement on the Humane, Sustainable, and Cost-Effective On-Range Management of America’s Wild Horses and Burros,” a day after the Trump Administration issued its 2019 budget which proposes lifting protections against the slaughter and sale of mustangs. We have yet to see if the final budget version allows for the killing.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), under the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, a known enemy of the environment and wildlife, is both the agency in charge of protecting wild horses, as well as their biggest threat. The BLM controls one-eighth of the country’s land and leases over 60 percent of it to ranchers. Much of this leased land is also home to wild horses who struggle with ranchers for grazing rights. Horses have lost 41% of their habitat since 1971. The BLM has rounded up thousands of horses with helicopters and currently has about 45,000 in holding pens. The proposed budget would allow for the cruel and needless slaughter and sale of all.
The BLM has set the Appropriate Management Level (AML) of horses at 26, 710; a number so low it threatens extinction. With around 70,000 wild horses on public lands now, achieving that goal would jeopardize entire populations as well as genetic diversity and natural behavior of animals who by nature roam and have distinct social organization.
The BLM has allowed political interests and poor land management to rule its policies. It exaggerates how much grazing land is overrun with horses. Over 80% of grazing land for livestock is not occupied by horses. It’s most ignorant mistake was ignoring the advice of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report titled “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward,” and opting for a barbaric gelding and spaying procedures in place of non-invasive humane fertility control vaccines.
Included in the recommendations from the group of 84 are:
- Developing a 10 year plan to reduce populations with fertility control, PZP or PZP-22, that does not impact reproductive hormones
- Raising the AML to a 50-50 allocation of land for horses and livestock on land designated for both
- Lower the livestock grazing levels where there is herd management
- Re-establish the historic range of wild horses and burros. Return captive geldings and vaccinated mares to original zeroed out areas (areas from where they were rounded-up and removed)
- Protect predators to ensure natural removal of horses
- Continue research on humane birth control
- Develop programs and apprenticeships with community schools and institutions to encourage animal stewardship
With the 1971 passage of “The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act” Congress declared “that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people…[they] shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death…to be considered…as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.”
Help save America’s iconic horses. Click here to sign Lady Freethinker’s petition urging the U.S. government to stop the slaughter.