The Appropriations Committee voting to allocate tax payers dollars for the removal and slaughter of one of America’s greatest treasures is a black stain on our history. Currently there are 50,000 wild horses being held in BLM (Bureau of Land Management) holding pens that are at high risk. The Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was designed to protect these creatures from actions like this. In fact, the only time that human intervention is supposed to be enacted is when they deem that populations are out of control or when there are older/sick animals. When the populations are deemed to be too large for the habitat they are to be ‘removed for private maintenance and care’ (1)
The CANA Foundation has identified 3 major benefactors to the removal of these horses: Slaughterhouses, Cattle Ranchers, and big oil/gas/fracking companies.
The act has multiple loopholes that people are exploiting. It has become common practice for people to adopt these animals and keep them for a year to where they no longer have their ‘free roaming status’ and then they are sold off to slaughter where they are paid by the pound which is substantially higher than the
$25 $125 adoption fee that the BLM charges [edit: the cost for adoption is $125 for the first horse, $25 for an additional horse]. After these horses are auctioned off to the highest bidder they are put into large stock trailers and shipped south, often to Mexico where they are slaughtered for human consumption. (2) There are many advocacy groups that raise money to rescue as many as they can but it is very expensive as they have to be part of the auction process and these horses typically sell from $700-$1000 each. Fortunately, there are many sanctuaries that have stepped up and are willing to care for them but this isn’t a sustainable solution and many are not saved in time.
This has been the biggest battle that the wild horses have been fighting in recent history. Currently cattle/sheep ranchers receive highly subsidized grazing rights on BLM land. They pay a mere $1.87 per head of cattle/sheep per month (yes that is per month) to graze on land that belongs to the American people. This price was lowered from the 2016 price which was a mere $2.11 per head. (3) This has been an uphill battle for many reasons, the main reason is that the cattle ranchers don’t want their livestock to contend for food with the wild horse population. The BLM top brass is currently made up of ex ranchers who have made it painfully easy for ranchers to over graze areas and to contaminate water holes that other local inhabitants rely on. (4) Their manure and urine is stocked full of bacteria that leaches into waterways and throws off the pH which kills fish and vegetation. Also, the cattle trample embankments, killing plants. This in turn has reduced the amount of shade the water gets which is raising temperatures and killing inhabitants. (4)
Over the past decade the West has seen a spike of fires. This is due to overgrazing. Cattle are very hard on the land and, with the way they digest their food, the foliage is unable to reseed itself and what is left is inedible to most species. Many of these areas are turning into barren wastelands because other species that live there such as butterflies, birds, and rabbits have nothing left to survive on. The Forest Service did a study on this in 1994 and concluded that livestock grazing is the “4th major cause of overall species endangerment and the 2nd major cause of plant endangerment” (4)
Lawsuit after lawsuit has been brought by the Cattle Association and local ranchers to remove the horses. They say that the horses are an invasive species and then tell the public that they are doing the horses a favor because they are starving to death; so removal is the most humane solution. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The few horses that are under-fed are because their access land keeps shrinking to make room for the growing cattle industry.
The general public stands firmly with the wild horses. 85% do not want these horses removed and certainly don’t want their tax dollars to fund it. Just today, 7/13/2017, a federal judge stopped a law suit that had been brought by Utah cattle ranchers to remove the wild horses. This lawsuit was almost 3 years in the making and is considered a big win by horse advocacy groups. There are more suits to be filed so it is imperative that we keep paying attention and let constituents know what is happening. (5)
Big Oil, Gas & Coal Mining, and Fracking
As the current administration loosens up leases for dirty energy such as coal, oil and fracking it causes havoc on the local ecosystems. For coal, which is one of the dirtiest resource that we use, large pits are dug, contaminating water sources and destroying all vegetation in its wake. Once the contaminated substances are brought to the surface no vegetation will be able to survive. There have been environmentalists that have tried to no avail to re-establish foliage in these areas however they have yet to find anything that can re root and thrive.
Fracking is also highly contaminating to local waterways. We have all seen videos of flammable tap water that has leeched into local water supplies; it is no better for the animal population that relies on them. This has had catastrophic effects on every species from fish, birds, bugs and larger animals such as horses, rabbits, and deer.
Another thing to consider is all of the roadways that will need to be built to get to these areas which are often remote. This can cause a risk to many animals being hit as well as vegetation being destroyed so these trucks can gain access. (6)
On July 12, 2017 the Appropriations Committee approved the slaughter of the wild horses and burros to make room for the three industries that we outlined above. This is paid for by your tax dollars and poses a horrible threat to your heritage, the wild horse. They will vote shortly in the house to get final approval to fully fund it and enact the slaughter, making it legal. Please don’t let this happen. Please call, email, and visit your state representatives to ensure that our voices are heard. If you have the time, call multiple times. We are all louder together and we need to band together before it is too late for our wild horse population.
- Featured Image: Phelps, J.M. (Jan. 30, 2016). Wild Horses. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mandj98/24772533666/