Statement: Dangerous Plan Calls for Mass Removals

Statement of American Wild Horse Campaign, April 23, 2019

This is a difficult update to write, but our commitment to protecting America’s wild horses and burros requires us to share it. AWHC has always placed a high priority on working collaboratively with other wildlife and animal protection organizations.  It is with great sadness but certain conviction that we must now strongly oppose a policy being promoted by several of these groups and we are urging our supporters to oppose it as well.

On Monday, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and Return to Freedom announced a deal with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, rancher lobbyists, and Rep. Chris Stewart, the leading advocate in Congress for the mass removal and destruction of wild horses. It’s a bad deal and violates the Statement of Principles and Recommendations signed by more than 100 horse organizations:

  • It would require the removal of an unprecedented 15,000-20,000 wild horses from public lands in Fiscal Year 2020 alone. Large-scale removals, involving cruel and inhumane helicopter roundups, are envisioned for several additional years to get within 20 percent of the BLM’s extinction-level population limit of 27,000 horses on 27 million acres of BLM land.
  • It will continue a policy of cruel roundups and confinement. The BLM will have control over these horses, and any improved holding facilities, like “enclosed pastures” will be funded by the BLM and at the mercy of annual appropriations.
  • The only scientifically proven method of humane population management, PZP fertility control, is not mandated. The BLM has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to use PZP, as it currently spends 0% of its budget on it. Instead, the agency has repeatedly demonstrated its preference for more draconian measures, including surgical sterilization and managing wild horses in non-reproducing and single-sex herds.
  • It’s unscientific and prioritizes cattle over wildlife. The plan accepts the BLM’s unscientific population limits for wild horses and burros, for which the National Academy of Sciences found there was no scientific support and which are based on restricting these animals to just 12 percent of BLM lands and then allocating 80 percent of the forage in the remaining habitat to privately owned livestock.
  • It’s unsustainable and expensive. Removing 15,000-20,000 horses from the range and storing them in holding for just one year could add as much as $50 million to the BLM’s $80 million a year budget. Increasing this financial burden so intensively and quickly will make efforts to slaughter these horses in the future more likely. It's not hard to see why Rep. Chris Stewart supports the plan. 

There’s a better way. Together we successfully beat back attempts by the BLM and livestock lobbying groups to legalize wild horse and burro slaughter. Together we’ll pursue creative solutions for wild horse management that give wild horses a fair share of resources on the small amount of public lands designated as their habitat. Together we’ll fight the mass removals that the National Academy of Sciences warned against as we advocate for humane management in the wild using fertility control.

We don’t need to cave to cattle industry interests for nothing but vague promises. We have the power of the people on our side. We can and we will do better.

Wild horses are counting on us,

Suzanne Roy, Executive Director