An advisory board to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is suggesting euthanizing 45,000 wild horses that were removed from their habitat to make room for privately-owned cattle to graze on U.S. rangelands for profit.
The Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board has recommended that all remaining unadoptable horses be euthanized, claiming that it costs too much to care for them in the crammed holding pens where they now reside.
The bureau has not officially responded to the recommendation of euthanizing the horses, but they are financially strapped by the current situation. The BLM is spending $49 million each year to care for the horses according to The Verge, which is nearly half the budget of the entire program.
The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is supposed to protect and control wild horses and burros. Under the act, the BLM is authorized to move wild horses and burros off ranges “to sustain the health of public lands,” Fox News reports. They say that the bureau estimates that more than 67,000 wild horses and burros are still roaming on BLM-managed land in a total of 10 states throughout the west.
Wild horses and burros are regularly rounded up to make room for cattle to graze on public lands. One Green Planet points out that cattle outnumber horses fifty to one and that the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is supposed to be protecting wild horses, not enabling them to be euthanized. They argue that the roundups are purely profit-led. “Meanwhile, the BLM doesn’t want to miss out on the livestock grazing tax it collects from cattle ranchers, they say. “Wild grazing horses just aren’t profitable.”
The Humane Society condemns euthanizing the horses and maintains that the government should have been focusing on fertility control and limiting population growth of the wild horses remaining on the range. They call the round-up and removal strategy for wild horse and burro populations on rangelands “financially unsustainable”and say that they have offered more feasible alternatives for the past 20 years.
“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,” Senior Vice President of Programs & Innovations Holly Hazard said. “The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mismanagement.” The Humane Society says their alternatives will help not only the horses but the overburdened BLM, and that they still stand ready to implement these alternatives at any time.
People around the country and around the world have responded with outrage to the proposal that the horses be euthanized.
A change.org petition is calling for the Administration and Congress to protect and preserve wild horses on public lands and not to permit them to be euthanized, and others are urging concerned citizens to call the White House.
The BLM has been heavily criticized for their treatment of wild horses in the past. The Washington Times reported in 2015 that the agency sold 1,794 federally protected wild horses for $10 each to a Colorado rancher who sent them to slaughter. An investigation revealed that the BLM did not follow their own rules to protect the horses, including limiting the number of horses sold to each party and ensuring that they were going to good homes and not to slaughter.
Ironically, the BLM has a quote about the necessity of protecting and treasuring wild horses at the top of its wild horse and burro web page.
“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; (and) that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people…” (Public Law 92-195, December 15, 1971)
The public can adopt the horses for as little as $125 each for untrained horses. “The base adoption fee applies to adoptions using a lottery draw or a first-come, first-served method,” the BLM says. Some adoptions use competitive bidding to determine the adoption fee, especially for trained or gentled animals.
The BLM estimates that since 1971, they have adopted out more than 235,000 wild horses and burros nationwide.
[Photo by Scott Sonner/AP Images]