Over the past few months, Congress has been considering the Trump Administration’s budget request to slaughter tens of thousands of healthy wild horses and burros. Slaughter advocates are once again arguing that there are more horses than the range can allow – a conclusion not supported by science or evidence.
The public is opposed to this plan to massacre icons of the American West by huge margins – some 80% of Americans, according to a survey conducted last month. That’s why advocates of slaughter, including Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, have shifted to talking about the need to “euthanize” these majestic animals.
Let’s be crystal clear: “euthanization” is the same old slaughter by a nicer, more merciful sounding name.
Most dictionaries define euthanasia similar to Merriam Webster: “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”
Killing healthy horses as a matter of political convenience is not euthanasia. It is not mercy. It is savage and brutal, and when members of Congress try to pass their support of slaughter off as something else, they are misleading their constituents and should be held accountable. The “solution” they are trying to pass off as “euthanasia” involves killing animals because there are allegedly too many of them – not because they are incurably or terminally ill. This choice of language implies humanity even though it is anything but humane, and it is a lesson in the art of misleading at its finest.
Rather than jump to slaughter, Congress must look where the National Academy of Sciences directed the BLM to go: managing the wild horse population with fertility control. This can be done easily, humanely and cost-effectively with the PZP vaccine, a type of birth control administered by a fast and relatively painless dart injection. Unlike surgical sterilization, PZP does not endanger the horses or impact the natural behaviors that distinguish wild horses from their domestic counterparts. At present, BLM makes minimal use of this vaccine, but it has been effective where they have properly employed it.
Some in Congress and at the Department of the Interior would rather lethally cull wild herds while cutting the budget for PZP administration. When they do so, they are openly defying scientific recommendations, the will of the American people and the desires of many of their individual constituents. Thankfully, the American public isn’t standing for this. There is still time for Congress to wise up, reject the inhumanity of mass slaughter, and call for publicly-supported, scientifically-recommended, and long-term solutions for our wild horses.
We think it is long past time for them to do so. And step one of this solution is to stop trying to put blinders on the American public by calling their lethal plan something it’s not.
Suzanne Roy is executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign.