Wild Mustangs & Burros
Published on 11/1/2017 in the NY Daily News. Written by Susan Wagner, President & Founder of Equine Advocates. Special interests in the ranching, oil and gas and mining industries and the lawmakers who do their [...]
In the decade since the Burns Amendment stripped away over 34 years of protection for America’s precious wild horse and burro herds, these majestic animals have been sold for commercial purposes, including slaughter. Legislation has been introduced to reinstate their protection, only to be blocked by the same special interest groups that want to keep horse slaughter legal.
Today there are approximately 50,000 wild horses who have been violently rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) living in government holding facilities. All these horses are being held needlessly at the taxpayers’ expense. There are humane ways to manage them on the ranges at half the cost to the American taxpayers than the cost of the round-ups that are both cruel and completely unnecessary. Additionally, the BLM claims not to sell wild horses for slaughter but has acknowledged that it has repeatedly sold horses to known killer-buyers.
An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior found that, in 2012, the BLM sold around 1,800 wild horses to rancher Tom Davis. Davis, known for selling horses to slaughter, promptly and illegally sent these 1,800 horses to Mexico for slaughter. Despite these findings, no action has been taken against Tom Davis.
The BLM has failed miserably in its management of these animals. So far, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, has been a major disappointment. She has shown no interest or understanding of this issue and repeatedly refuses to answer the question as to what will happen to the 50,000 mustangs that remain captive in BLM long-and short-term holding facilities when asked by members of the press as well as by welfare groups and concerned citizens.
Sadly, there are only about 25,000 wild horses and 3,000 burros remaining on the ranges. We say the Public Lands belong to the American people and if the polls are accurate, the vast majority of us want the round-ups, the cruelty and the slaughter to stop!
The BLM recently announced their intention to resurrect plans to round up and spay wild mares in White Mountain, Wyoming. Spaying is rarely done even with domestic mares, but when it is, the procedure takes place in a sterile hospital with a one-month recovery time. Doing this in the field is dangerous and the risk of infection and death is extremely high. This is cruel, inhumane and dangerous, especially given that there are safer, proven methods of birth control.
The Cattle Industry
Today, there are millions of cattle on our public lands, but only an estimated 30,000 Wild Horses left. The enormous public lands comprise areas larger than the size of France. It is untrue to say that there is not enough room for the horses to live out their natural lives in their natural habitat. The cattle have decimated the land while horses have always been part of the natural balance. While cows chew cud and put nothing back into the land, the horses spread seeds from their mouths and manure that keep the land environmentally sound. However, unless drastic steps are taken, these noble creatures will be destroyed in the name of greed. This is all about AUM’s, Animal Units per Month. For every Wild Horse that is removed from the public lands, a cow and calf can replace that one horse. That is ultimately what the ranchers and cattlemen want.
The truth is there is no Wild Horse over-population problem. There is, however, a Wild Greed and Averice problem.
Decades of mismanagement by the Department of the Interior, alleged graft and curruption within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and cruel, costly round-ups to run a Wild Horse Adoption Program that has never worked are among the main contributing factors that have thrust America’s wild herds into a downward spriral toward suffering, slaughter and death. The BLM encourages people to adopt these majestic animals but the treatment they have received over the years has frequently been less than regal and, in far too many cases, downright inhumane. Capture is often torturous and thousands of horses have died horrible deaths in the process. Mass graves of wild horses killed by the BLM and poachers have been well documented and published. This failed adoption policy was always a poor substitute for an effective and humane management plan which the American people were more than happy to support with tax-payer dollars. Herd Management Areas (HMA’s) were systematically decreased in size or eliminated altogether, allowing less and less rangelands for the horses.
Back in 1959, it was the courageous Velma Johnston, better known as Wild Horse Annie, who first inspired passage of legislation to preserve and protect America’s Wild Mustangs and Burros.
Former Rep. Nick Rahall has repeatedly tried to overturn the Burns Amendment since 2005, and Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation and others have worked tirelessly to protect and preserve these noble animals.
Protection & Preservation
Wild Horses and Burros deserve to be protected. They are part of America’s heritage. To capture a Wild Horse is to strip away the spirit and dignity of this proud and noble creature. To watch wild horses being run into a sales ring at a slaughter auction is to watch an atrocity that is so sad that it defies description. The majority of Americans want these animals preserved and protected. They can be managed in the wild and they can be moved to a sanctuary where people from around the world can have the privilege of seeing them in their natural habitat. However, to begin that process, the Burns Amendment must be repealed. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no active legislation to repeal the Amendment.
Back in 1969, author Hope Ryden wrote America’s Last Wild Horses, one of the best and most comprehensive books on the history and plight of America’s wild free-roaming horses and burros. Her prophetic title was steadily and tragically becoming a reality.