This federal bureau wants to slaughter tens of thousands of wild horses

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Rachel Leah, Salon

Thousands of wild horses' lives are at stake as the government considers ways to control their population and limit their impact on public lands.

Already, many animal rights activists have taken issue with U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) tactic of herding wild horses with helicopters and sometimes confining them permanently to expensive holding facilities. Now that same federal agency is petitioning for new regulations and budget allowances that would enable the slaughtering of those animals.

"The BLM, the very agency in charge of protecting them, is asking Congress for permission to kill them," Simone Netherlands, an animal rights activist and a spokesperson for the American Wild Horse Campaign, told ABC News.

The idea is disturbing, yes, but the issue is not so simple. According to ABC News, there are approximately 75,000 wild horses living on public lands, most of them located in government-controlled territory in the American West. Without natural predators, their numbers have greatly expanded in the last half century, putting them in conflict with others who use the natural resources on that federal property.

At this time, the BLM leases 60 percent of its land to ranchers, who count on the grasses the wild horses eat to feed their livestock. Naturally, these small (and sometimes large) business owners want the horses moved off the land completely in order to keep their often thin financial margins stable and, one might guess, keep prices for domestic beef down, at the consumer level.

Already, some captured wild horses are placed into what's called the "adoption circuit," a system that allows ranchers and enthusiasts to either house or domesticate the animals on private land. But that serves to help a thin fraction of the total number of horses. The majority are herded into holding facilities.

"The BLM, the very agency in charge of protecting them, is asking Congress for permission to kill them," Simone Netherlands, an animal rights activist and a spokesperson for the American Wild Horse Campaign, told ABC News.

The idea is disturbing, yes, but the issue is not so simple. According to ABC News, there are approximately 75,000 wild horses living on public lands, most of them located in government-controlled territory in the American West. Without natural predators, their numbers have greatly expanded in the last half century, putting them in conflict with others who use the natural resources on that federal property.

At this time, the BLM leases 60 percent of its land to ranchers, who count on the grasses the wild horses eat to feed their livestock. Naturally, these small (and sometimes large) business owners want the horses moved off the land completely in order to keep their often thin financial margins stable and, one might guess, keep prices for domestic beef down, at the consumer level.

Already, some captured wild horses are placed into what's called the "adoption circuit," a system that allows ranchers and enthusiasts to either house or domesticate the animals on private land. But that serves to help a thin fraction of the total number of horses. The majority are herded into holding facilities.

This brewing battle in Washington points to many things: Humanity's inability to operate in sustainable ways, the problems eating meat causes the world and our misunderstanding of ecologies (after all, it was humans who first brought horses to this continent and then mismanaged them).

More than anything else, though, it points to an ongoing war of priorities, one in which the current government seems to favor business over more universal concerns and in which bureaucracy constantly fails almost all living things — humans being the most tragic and important examples.

Originally posted by Salon