In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, requiring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the US Department of Interior, to protection of wild horses and burros on public lands.
“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; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”
Since the Act was passed in 270,000 wild horses and burros have been removed from public land. These animals are removed to allow taxpayer-subsidized livestock to graze. BLM rounds up horses, and stockpiles them in holding facilities. Currently more wild horses are in government stockpile facilities (50,000), than are left in the wild (<32,000). After roundup, the government must pay to care for these horses.
Cruelty of Roundups
The BLM uses helicopters to herd and stockpile wild horses and burros. These creatures then stampede, terrified, trying to find safety. They run for miles and miles until the thundering choppers finally trap them. Initially they are shut into metal holding pins. Families, crucially important to wild horse dynamics, are separated. When stallions, heads of the herd, are collected in such small areas, they fight. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen severe injury from barbed wire, helicopters hitting horses, and horses being dragged by BLM henchmen by ropes around their necks.
In 2013, a judge halted one of these round ups after footage surfaced of the BLM’s inhumane practices. Eventually the ruling was lifted, but initially, the management was caught driving wild horses too far and through barbed wire fencing. This caused many to sustain severe injury from cuts and trauma from tripping stampede. The judge asked the BLM to implement more humane handling of horses, and specifically calling for and end to use of electric prod on weanlings. A herding in Calico, NV in 2010 experienced similar trauma, as 40 herded mares spontaneously aborted. Mares losing their foals perfectly exemplify the extreme stress these horses experience. Rescued mustangs are known to still exhibit extreme fear from overhead planes and helicopters years after their capture.
The current roundup in Wyoming has been going on for 8 days and already 7 horses have died. Two foals under six months ran into fencing and died on impact. A third yearling collapsed in the trailer. A Necropsy revealed scar tissue in the lungs, pointing to some previous pneumonia. This means this young horse ran for his life for miles with unfit lungs until he was finally run to death by the BLM. Extensive footage can be found here.
Photo by Carol Walker Above Photo shows Mother protecting her foal who was too tired to continue running. NV, USA.
Ranchers pay $1.35 per animal unit month to graze livestock on public land. This is approximately 1/16th of market value thanks to tax subsidies. Because of these below market rates, this grazing program costs the American tax payer approximately $500,000,000 per year. Wild horses are viewed as competition for cheap taxpayer subsidized grazing by organizations such as National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They support these round ups and their large numbers cause politicians to will the law to rancher’s will.
After roundup, the BLM ships horses to long-term holding facilities. These are quickly reaching capacity. Former cattle ranchers in Kansas and Oklahoma run these. The BLM pays these ranchers $1.25 per horse per day, resulting in millions of taxpayer jobs per year. Wild horses and burros deserve the same fair allocation of public land. A cheaper and more humane solution would be birth control with herds.
Wild Horses and the Ecosystem
A main reason BLM can eradicate the wild horses is the claim that horses destroy the land. A recent study found reducing wild horse population in a given area had a negligible effect on land conditions. First, horses eat grass by ‘cutting’ it with their front incisors. This allows them to act as a lawnmower, and the grass can continue to grow. Cows, on the other hand, have no upper front teeth. In order to eat grass, cows wrap their tongue around the grass and rip it up from the roots, preventing it from growing back. Not only this, but horses are adapt to grazing on less than ideal land. They can forage on much steeper, rocky terrain, whereas, cows must stick to lowland fields. Second, horses can graze much farther from a water source than cows. They also use streams and lakes for drinking, and then they leave to continue grazing. Cows are known to wade and camp around water sources, causes a lot of damage to lake and stream banks.
The current wild horse and burro “management plan” is not sustainable for the horses, the environment or the taxpayer. Even Bob Edward’s, a former BLM employee thinks the wild horses are being slighted. He said, “The wild horses aren’t getting their fair shake. I don’t think they have been given their proper place on the landscape of the American West.” Washington is liberally exercising their rights to this program, in order to appease the ranchers. Thousands of American’s oppose the BLM’s program, but unfortunately we live in an age where commercial interests trump public will, as the government turns a blind eye to the inhumane treatment of helpless animals.
What Can You Do
Take to Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets sharing your opposition to this cruel and wasteful government program using the hashtag #justiceformustangs. Thousands have taken to the Internet in opposition to the BLM’s roundups in a variety of places. Protest groups encourage posts to be shared onto the Department of the Interior’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/USInterior. Many also tweeted to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell @SecretaryJewell and @Interior. Many protestors also wrote and called into to their representatives. Hundreds have sent in photos with the hashtag #justice4mustangs and thousands have taken it to social media.
For more information please visit wildhorsepreservation.org. Please also reach out to those responsible: including Secretary Jewel at 202-208-7351 and/or BLM Director Neil Kornze at 202-208-3801 and/or BLM Assistant Director Edwin Roberson at 202-208-4896 and/or BLM Wild Horse and Burro Division Chief Joan Guilfoyle at 202-912-7260. Visit Facebook.com/TheCloudFoundation and Facebook.com/FreeWildHorses.
Sign the petition here http://wildhor.se/1uvSRWL. AND SPREAD THE WORD.