Largest-ever wild horse roundup in US history coincides with 50th Anniversary of wild horse protection law
Washington, DC (December 13, 2021)—On the National Day of the Horse, the Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign, joined by more than 70,000 supporters, petitioned Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to stop the largest wild horse roundup in US history, which is occurring in Wyoming’s Checkerboard region.
The ongoing roundup of 3,555 wild horses — nearly half of Wyoming’s wild horse population — is being organized and funded by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), even as the nation prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act on Dec. 15. The BLM’s operation will leave 3.4 million acres of land — the vast majority of which is public land owned by all Americans — virtually devoid of wild horses, harming the local economy that counts on these cherished animals as an important tourist attraction.
“It speaks volumes about our government’s flawed strategy and misguided priorities that the largest removal of wild horses in US history coincides with the golden anniversary of the very law meant to preserve their freedom,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., equine program manager and senior advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute. “Contrary to the law’s mandate, America's wild horses have faced tremendous pressure for decades from the government, ranchers, the livestock industry, state wildlife agencies, and others who do not support the protection of these iconic animals on Western rangelands.
Before delivering the petition, the organizations held a rally outside the Department of the Interior today opposing the brutal roundups and calling for more humane management methods.
In 2004, Congress designated December 13 the National Day of the Horse to acknowledge the contribution of horses to the economy, history, and character of the United States. Despite this proclamation, panicked wild horses continue to be stampeded by helicopters into temporary corrals and separated from their families as part of the BLM’s flawed management philosophy that costs taxpayers more than $60 million a year.
Just in the past two weeks, horses in the Wyoming Checkerboard roundup have died after crashing into panels and breaking their necks; one mare died of a ruptured uterus.
“The current assault on Wyoming’s wild horses is emblematic of our government’s 50-year failure to live up to its legal obligation to protect these animals,” said Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for the American Wild Horse Campaign. “The BLM is pursuing a mass roundup plan that will cost taxpayers $5 billion, slash wild herds to near extinction levels, and could result in the mass slaughter of these cherished animals. Today we are calling on Secretary Haaland to stop the roundups and start protecting wild horses and burros by humanely managing them in the wild using fertility control. Fifty years is long enough. The time for change is now.”
Currently, the BLM, which manages most of America’s wild horses, spends less than 1% of its budget on fertility control. In a historic move earlier this year, House and Senate lawmakers set aside $11 million in fiscal year 2022 for the agency to administer reversible fertility control vaccines, such as the widely supported Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine, which is 90% effective at preventing pregnancy in horses. If implemented, humane fertility control will ultimately keep these animals in the wild where they belong.
The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation's leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America's wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.