BLM Colludes with Livestock Industry Lobbying Group to Surgically Sterilize Wild Mares

(September 2017) Last year, AWHC successfully shutdown the BLM's barbaric spaying experiments on wild mares by filing a lawsuit to uphold the public’s First Amendment right to observe the proposed spaying procedure. One of the BLM’s stated goals for conducting these archaic, invasive and dangerous experiments was to determine if they were “socially acceptable,” which was impossible to do if the experiments were conducted behind closed doors.

Once the BLM understood the American public had a legal right to see what they were doing with our tax dollars to our mares, they quickly canceled the experiment, citing our lawsuit as the reason.

But the BLM didn't stop there. The agency then turned around and worked with the pro-horse slaughter lobbying group, "Protect the Harvest," and sold 10 innocent wild fillies for the same spaying experiment that had been cancelled because it was too gruesome for the public to see. The BLM stated the 10 fillies were three strikes horses -- wild horses who are put up for adoption three times, not adopted, then made available for sale “without restriction.” 

In this manner, the BLM ensured that the procedure -- called “ovariectomy via colpotomy” – was done behind closed doors out of public view. The procedure results in the surgical removal of a mare’s ovaries by a veterinarian making an incision in the vaginal wall, placing his/her hand and arm through the vagina into the abdominal cavity, manually (and blindly) locating the ovaries, then severing them with a rod-like chain tool known as an “ecraseur.” You can see the BLM’s veterinarian of choice, Leon Pielstick, performing the procedure on an obviously inadequately anesthetized burro in the video below. 

Protect the Harvest, an industry front group that fights for horse slaughter and against humane animal welfare laws, is now marketing these spayed fillies through the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity event and using them to promote ovariectomy as a desirable wild horse management tool.

The BLM is both complicit in and proud of this backroom deal to experiment on wild fillies out of public view. The agency has stated that the information from the Protect the Harvest’s spaying experiment could be used for future agency decisions for on the range management.

However, the National Academy of Sciences warned against ovariectomy due to the high risk of prolonged bleeding and infection. Additionally, ample research documents the behavioral changes resulting from gelding/spaying. In fact, the BLM and "Protect the Harvest" are now promoting the spayed fillies as more "trainable" specifically because their natural behaviors have been altered.

Meanwhile, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the BLM has directed its personnel to sugarcoat the concept of castrating stallions and removing the ovaries of mares by calling it “spaying” and “neutering,” terminology the public is used to because of dogs and cats. However, it is far different to perform these procedures on wild animals, particularly wild horses, than it is to perform them on domestic dogs and cats. Surgically sterilized domestic animals commonly require follow-up care – including pain relief and restricted movement – that is simply not possible for wild horses on the range or in holding pens.

Further, the behavioral changes caused by spaying and gelding are desirable for dogs and cats in a domestic setting. However, in the wild, surgical sterilization will destroy horses’ natural behaviors, which are the essence of what makes them wild and distinguishes them from their domestic counterparts.

Instead of taking the wild out of wild horses by surgically sterilizing them, the BLM could use the PZP birth control vaccine to manage these horses humanely and non-invasively. The National Academy of Sciences recommended that BLM use this management tool, which is a vaccine that prevents fertilization without impacting natural behaviors.

The BLM is willing to go to great lengths to promote dangerous and destructive surgical sterilization of wild horses, while at the same time refusing to use humane and non-invasive birth control. This is further evidence that the agency embraces and actively promotes the agenda of the livestock industry at the expense of the public it serves. In this case, the cattlemen’s agenda includes massive wild horse roundups, reductions of wild populatoions to near-extintion levels, slaughter of these national icons and surgical sterilization of the few wild horses who remain on the range. The public widely opposes these initiatives, including 80 percent opposition to killing healthy wild horses and burros.

Despite President Donald Trump’s promise to return government to the people, his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has shown zero interest in making the BLM – an agency he oversees – responsive to the taxpayers instead of the special interests who want to exploit the public lands for private gain – and reap generous tax subsidies in the process.