The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not voted to euthanize 44,000 wild horses, but an advisory board to the BLM has recommended it.
The reversal came in the wake of extensive public opposition and three separate lawsuits, including a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by TCF and AWHPC, seeking an injunction under the First Amendment of the Constitution to allow them to video record the proceedings.
Responding to BLM’s decision to drop the sterilization research, TCF and AWHPC attorney Nick Lawton of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Eubanks said that BLM’s withdrawal of its invasive sterilization experiments of spaying reveals, more than anything else, that the agency knows the public will not accept these inhumane sterilization practices.
“We sued to protect our clients’ First Amendment right to document the BLM’s actions and to hold them publicly accountable for their treatment of wild horses,” he said. “The litigation and advocacy efforts that led up to the lawsuits clearly demonstrate that surgically sterilizing wild horses is not socially acceptable and we are glad the BLM acknowledged this and withdrew the entire Decision Record authorizing the experiments.”
“This decision, though not made lightly, is in response to litigation that could have put the wild horses, BLM staff and our research partners at risk by requiring unnecessary persons or equipment be placed within the small confines of the space where the procedures would take place,” the BLM said in a statement released through its Portland office.
Officials with the BLM wanted to study three methods to determine whether they are safe, effective options for controlling the wild horse population. Of the three methods, the advocates were most concerned about a procedure that involves removing ovaries from sedated, pregnant mares in various gestational stages. The veterinarian reaches into the mare’s abdomen through the vagina to sever and remove the ovaries, according to a story by ABC News.
Ginger Kathrens, TCF Volunteer Executive Director states, said the serilization research was a path to destroying wild horses by destroying “the very essence of what makes them wild – their natural behaviors. Now we must remain vigilant to ensure that the agency does not pursue the ‘euthanasia’ of wild horses in holding or the castration of wild stallions, and instead works with advocates to develop wide-scale, humane PZP fertility control programs as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences three years ago.”
At the same time as the BLM informed TCF and AWHPC that it was canceling the sterilization research, the BLM National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board passed a resolution urging the “euthanasia” of wild horses currently in government holding facilities. Currently, 45,000 wild horses and burros are held in short- and long-term holding facilities, officials with the two wild horse advocacy groups said.
Humane Society of the United States Senior Vice President of Programs & Innovations Holly Hazard, said, “The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care. The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mismanagement. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”
The HSUS has long recommended the humane and sustainable option of implementing fertility control programs throughout the West, she said.
The resolution is the culmination of decades of BLM mismanagement of wild horses and burros and the public rangelands, according to herd advocates. Livestock has historically degraded public lands and the BLM has created a crisis both on and off the range by continuing to use roundups and removals to manage wild horses and burros, instead using humane fertility control, which has been available for nearly 30 years and is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.
Kathrens was the sole dissenting vote against the Advisory Board resolution calling for the ‘euthanasia’ of horses in holding.
“While cancellation of the sterilization experiments is a major victory, Americans will not stand by and allow the killing of tens of thousands of wild horses holding facilities,” Suzanne Roy, AWHPC executive director said. “If the agency thought the public was opposed to sterilization, wait until it sees what happens in response to the proposed mass killing of these American icons.”
On August 15, officials with TCF and AWHPC filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to stop the experiments unless the agency allowed public observation and videotaping of the invasive procedures. Government lawyers Friday informed the groups that that the agency did not intend to pursue the surgical sterilization of mares at this time, if ever, officials with the two advocacy groups stated in a news release.
The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. Cloud is the subject of TCF Founder Ginger Kathrens’ groundbreaking PBS/Nature documentaries. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is a national wild horse advocacy organization whose grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.
Eileen E. White