Wild horses have been a point of controversy for years. The 1971 Wild Horse and Burro act ensured their protection from slaughter. Recent developments, though, may change this scenario.
BLM May Allow Death Of Thousands of Wild Horses
Scares about the slaughter of wild horses floated around the web since last year. But there is a chance these threats will become reality. Last Thursday, the National Wild Horse and Burro advisory board voted towards a reduction in numbers of wild horses and burros. This advisory board is an independent group and has no power to affect policy. Instead, it sets recommendations for BLM.
These proposals include the reduction of the wild horse and burro numbers to around 27,000. Once they reach this number, the board recommends the use of contraceptives to keep it there. They also suggested phasing out long-term holding facilities. According to the advisory board, these changes should occur within three years. The money spent on the upkeep of long-term pastures would revert to managing the “on the range” horses and promoting adoptions and sales.
As well as population control, the board suggested investment in adoptions and sales. These may include allowing international sales, which are not currently possible. One such proposal included shipping around 20,000 horses to Russia. There, they would serve as prey to large cats such as Amur leopards and tigers, in a plan to rewild these animals. Other suggestions include the processing of horses for food, both human and animal.
This could lead to the death of several thousand horses, wild horse advocates fear. Some assert this would mean the killing of as many as 90,000 healthy animals.
Managing the wild horses
Though the horse is native to the Americas, they went extinct on the continent over a million years ago. Spanish conquistadores brought these animals back, as well as other European colonizers. Centuries of freedom showed the remarkable survival abilities of these horses.
Their right to inhabit said environments is a point of contention, though. Or rather, what to do with them. While some argue the horses are a risk to the environment others say they are nowhere near that level of threat. Both sides agree with the control on their numbers, with differing points being on how. Some call for the slaughter of these animals, including for human consumption as meat. Others believe that managing these horses with contraceptive drugs and adoptions would be a more humane method.
The last estimate (March 1st) by BLM is that there are over 70,000 wild horses and burros surviving “on the range” in the United States. This means horses and burros living completely wild, without human intervention. There are some 32,000 animals living in long-term holding pastures.
Wild horse advocates such as the Return to Freedom sanctuary believe the flaw is in the techniques. They say that BLM does not spend nearly as much as it should on the effective management of the herds, worrying more about capturing them in holding pens than effectively managing their land. Others such as the American Wild Horse Campaign raise the issue of the competition by cattle and sheep, which, according to them, graze on as much as six times the land that wild horses graze on.
Opposition to slaughter
The general public is overwhelmingly against slaughter. In recent polls, as many as 80% of interviewed Americans were against it. The wild horses are often named a symbol of the American West, and of the American spirit.
But the public opinion isn’t enough to several steps in this direction. Sometimes even for human consumption. In May of this year, a point in President Trump’s budget bill suggested that horses be sold without the guarantee they won’t be resold to slaughter. Animal rights advocates see this as a push by livestock lobbies to free up space, which, according to these groups, they would use to graze their sheep and cattle. Arguments in the bill include the cost of keeping these animals and verifying their destination. Eliminating this would save around US$10 million. While horse slaughter is illegal in the U.S., it isn’t in other countries. This ties back to the proposal by the advisory board to allow international sales.
In July, the House Appropriations Committee voted to remove language that impeded the destruction of healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros. This decision came from a growing fear that the animals kept in rounding pens will not be adopted, as just about 2,500 animals end adopted every year, compared to around 7,000 rounded up. The number of horses rounded up vary due to the costs involved.
What to do
If you’re in opposition to these measures, there are a few things you can do. Return to Freedom suggests you call your Senators in hopes they will bar these changes. It provides a list of Senators here. American Wild Horse Campaign also provides a way to find your Congressman here. Also, make sure to spread the word by sharing this post. As many people know about this situation, many more people can help.