A new film highlighting indigenous voices from several tribes is sounding the alarm over the U.S. Federal Government’s continuing practices of rounding up wild horses and sending them to slaughter.
“Let them Live! Love Wild Horses” – a 22-minute, rawly shot film available on YouTube – features Oglala Lakota Chief Lee Plenty Wolf; Neta Rhyne, a member of the Cherokee nation and founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Thundering Hooves; Evelyn Arce, a member of the Muisca tribe and the California-based nonprofit Love Wild Horses; and America the Band couple Dewey and Penny Bunnell.
Also showcased are Noname (pronounced No-nah-may) and Mystic, wild horses rescued from roundups and kill pens.
Plenty Wolf explains that horses – called Šúŋkawakȟáŋ in Lakota, which translates to “sacred dog” – have great spiritual value for the Lakota people and culture.
“Horses to us Lakota people are very sacred, and our goal is to save these horses from extinction,” Plenty Wolf says in the film. “Wild horses are chasing life, so have compassion for them. We do have to speak for them, because they cannot speak for themselves.”
Wild horses also are iconic emblems of America, Arce added.
“They mean freedom and spirit, everything our country represents,” she said.
While beautiful images of wild horses running against stunningly wild backgrounds saturate the film, the closing note of the Thundering Hooves Memorial fence is a sobering reminder that we could lose these national treasures if we don’t speak up.
A plaque notes the fence is “dedicated in memory of the slaughter bound horses, burros, and mules hauled down this highway on their last ride.”
Slaughterhouses were never a place the beautiful animals were meant to be, Rhyne said.
“Horses are sacred beings,” Rhyne said. “They are healers; they are a gift from our Creator for us, to be our companions, to guide us and protect us, and teach us how to be better humans.”
Rhyne encourages viewers to contact their legislators to advocate for wild horses.
“Tell them we are tired of our horses being brutally slaughtered, we are tired of people profiting off the misery of our wild and domestic horses and burros,” she says.
The film packs a powerful punch, especially in light of the grim reality facing wild horses and burros rounded up each year by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the federal agency tasked with overseeing their management.
The BLM routinely uses helicopters to drive panicked horses into corrals – a procedure that has caused both injuries and deaths this year – before the animals are packed off to off-site corrals, put up for adoption, or sent to slaughter.
As of Dec. 9, the United States had sent over 28,100 horses to Mexico for slaughter, according to the most recent market report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And although the BLM has touted its Adoption Incentive Program, in which those who adopt wild horses receive a $1,000 incentive, as finding good homes for horses, a New York Times exposé revealed that adopters have turned around and sold the innocent animals to slaughterhouses – and then were allowed to adopt horses again.
If you haven’t already, sign our petitions asking the federal government to stop the senseless slaughter through the Adoption Incentive Program and to support the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would amend existing laws to stop production of horse meat
The filmmakers also are asking people to call President Joe Biden (202-456-1111) and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (202-208-3100) to urge that captured wild horses be returned to the land and that the Federal Government adopt approaches steeped in indigenous wisdom and compassion – rather than killing.