Knowledge is half the battle. The issue of wild horses and burros is not simple, but one thing is very clear; if the American public does not intervene we will lose these horses forever. Ginger Kathrens, The Cloud Foundation
Please, get involved, help stop the round ups, help stop the slaughter. Please take action. It is not too late.
Ginger’s words are a chilling reminder of what will happen to our wild horse and burro population unless we stand up and demand justice.
The Bureau of Land Management is managing this valuable symbol of freedom into extinction on our Public Lands. Why, you might ask? Because of the greed of welfare ranchers, oil and gas and mining companies. Those are the people who dictate what happens on OUR Public Domain.
The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Act, an act passed unanimously in congress, once protected wild horses and burros, but greedy people and strong economic interests have trampled the intent of that progressive, ecologically balanced legislation to dust for their own special interests.
Under the pretense of protecting wild horse herds by controlling their overpopulation, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ”gathers” thousands of wild horses each year.In these so-called humane “gathers,” roundups in reality, helicopters stampede bands horses over long distances at high speeds across all kinds of terrain, in icy conditions, or when temperatures reach over 90 degrees. These so-called “humane gathers,” result in young foals being run until their tender hooves separate from their leg bones, in mares mis-carrying their foals, in horses being run into barbed wire, in broken legs and necks. The survivors, traumatized face internment in long-term holding pens. This is all done with our taxpayer dollars – under the guise of protecting our public lands.
Currently there are over 50,000 horses being held in long-term holding, at a cost to taxpayers of $75 Million dollars each year, while some wild horse advocates estimate the number remaining in the wild at less than 20,000. Two million wild horses roamed the western lands at the turn of the century.
Many of the wild horses gathered by the BLM are finding their way into the hands of unscrupulous “Kill Buyers” who buy horses cheaply from the BLM only to haul them to Mexico for execution in the most inhumane way, their meat sold for human consumption in Europe.
But overpopulation is not the real issue. We need more horses not fewer. The BLM establishes ridiculously low Appropriate Management Levels (AML’s) for wild horse herds – levels the BLM claim is appropriate for the rangeland available. However, for most of the remaining wild horse herds, that level is far below the number of horses necessary for genetic viability. According to horse geneticist, E. Gus Cothran, the minimum of 150 – 200 adult horses are necessary to maintain genetic viability of the herd.
To make matters worse, the BLM uses unscientific methods that result in the over-estimation of wild horse populations. They also over-estimate reproduction rates. According to their estimates, wild horses reproduce at the rate of 20% per year. But according to more scientific studies the reproduction rate is closer to 8-10%.
The BLM claims that wild horses and burros damage the range-land by overgrazing but in his insightful and moving book, The Wild Horse Conspiracy, Craig Downer, a wildlife biologist, shows that wild horses actually improve the range conditions. Overgrazing is a result of the millions of cattle pastured on federal land, land leased at a fraction of what ranchers would pay for pasture on private lands. In addition, horses also eat a lot of the dried woody plants that contribute to forest fires – plants that cattle refuse to eat.
To exacerbate the problem even more, natural predators like mountain lions and wolves which would prey on aging and injured horses as well as foals and thereby help to control the wild horse population, are being hunted, to decrease their impact on privately owned cattle.
The BLM developed the “Adopt a Wild Horse or Burro Program” to deal with wild horses they gather. The program worked fairly well until 2001 when the BLM made the bad decision to reduce the wild horse and burro population by half, thereby doubling the number of horses “gathered” each year. They target young strong horses for gather as easily adoptable, thereby removing the strongest and the best from the herd; and many adopted horses fall into the hands of people unable to train them or in some cases abuse them, resulting in the horses being shuffled from one owner to the next, ending up in overcrowded and underfunded sanctuaries, or sold to “Kill Buyers.”
This is a crisis on so many levels: a moral crisis in the inhumane treatment of these animals, a management crisis in the way BLM handles the program, an economic crisis in the cost to the American taxpayer and an environmental crisis in the deprivation of our environment of these noble beasts.
It is one thing to read about these things and shake our heads and say “what a shame.” But we need to take action to stop the crisis, to stop the bloodshed, to stop the round ups.
What can we do? Tell our elected officials to Stop the Roundups, to Stop the Slaughter.
1. Call the President (202) 456-1111
3. Each year the BLM issues a tentative schedule of roundups. Prior to each round up is a public comment period. You can attend or send comments to the BLM on tentative wild horse roundups. Information is available at the BLM website. And you can follow the websites below which will keep you informed of when public comments can be made.
4. The booklet, Managing for Extinction, Shortcomings of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, available for $2.00 from Animal Welfare Institute is an informative publication that explains many of the complicated issues.
5. No one tells the story of wild horses better than Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation. Ginger, the Emmy award-winning documentary film maker of the Cloud series on PBS has followed the horses and the issues over the last 19 years. Here are a few videos that are both informative and heartbreaking.
You can follow these websites to stay tuned to what is happening with wild horses.:
Here are some enlightening videos:
In May, 2012, overwhelmed and angered by what was happening to wild horse herds I wrote this poem.
Thundering Hoof Beats
Thundering hoof beats pound my soul
Manes flying in the wind,
I feel your spirit, hear your call
For this senselessness to end.
They come with screaming helicopters
Flying through the sky,
They come with greed and gluttony,
They come to see you die.
Majestic beasts, you once roamed free,
And blessed our Mother Earth.
For greed and bulging pockets They will rob you of new birth.
Captured fathers, murdered mothers
Whole families interred,
A single foal lies injured,
Starving cries no longer heard.
Your only crime is freedom,
Your only fault is love,
Your only blemish beauty,
This land built with your sweet blood.
Cries awaken me from slumber,
Massive murder, endless loss,
We once called this thing slavery,
Once named it Holocaust.
We saw your brothers vanish,
Buffalo shot down on the plain,
Now here you are, the last frontier,
A noble few remain.
May ghosts of those whose lives were lost,
Pound hoof beats on the doors
Of men who say they’re peacemakers,
But are nothing more than whores.
They trade you for a burger,
They sell you out for oil,
Silver lines their bulging pockets,
Your blood spills upon free soil.
Every one of us is guilty,
No! Don’t turn your head away,
We let this happen all the time,
And just watch in dismay.
May hoof beats pound our consciousness,
Screaming heard throughout the land,
May all who stand for freedom,
Draw a line upon the sand.
Thundering hoof beats pound my soul
Manes flying in the wind
Awake a mighty nation,
For this senselessness to end.
Let our horses run free!!!!