Alberta’s Wild Horses Suffer Same Abuse as U.S. Counterparts

By Jordana Divon | Daily Brew

Most Captured Wild Horses Sold Off to Slaughter

Alberta's Wild Horses ~ courtesy of the Calgary Herald

With the highest cowboy boot per capita ratio in the country, Alberta would seem the most natural place in Canada for wild horses to roam.

And it is. The Wild Horse of Alberta Society estimates that hundreds of the magnificent creatures live freely and openly in the province’s forests, with the government allowing for a certain number of horses to be humanely captured each year.

But, as the Calgary Herald reports, the number of captures recently hit a record high and the increase has the Society concerned that the wild horse population will disappear if it continues at this rate.

Between December 2011 and February 2012, 216 horses were taken from the wild out of an allotted 237 permits issued per season. In comparison, an average of 30 horses were captured per year over the last half decade.

Statistics on the number of horses that live in the wild vary. While Sustainable Resource Development spokesperson Dave Ealey said the official tally stood at 778 horses — down from 1,000 before this year’s roundup — Bob Henderson, president of the Wild Horse of Alberta Society claimed the number is closer to somewhere between 500 and 550.

What’s most troublesome to Henderson, however, is that he claims 90 per cent of those horses are sent straight to the slaughterhouse for their meat.

“These horses are part of our natural heritage,” Henderson told the Herald.

Henderson told the paper he has no problem with people taking the horses for adoption purposes, but he said the province doesn’t follow up with the animals once they’ve been taken, meaning people can ultimately do anything they want with them.

“We really don’t follow it. It’s basically their property once they’ve captured the horses,” Ealey admitted to the paper.

“They are entitled to the horses for their particular purposes because, basically, they’re private property then. A lot of the horses in the past, we know have gone to rodeo animals, stock animals, some of them have gone to the food industry, along with domestic.”

Part of the justification for this practice, said Ealey, is that the horses are considered “feral,” having escaped or being released by their owners, while others are the offspring of those horses.

He also said the horses pose a risk to humans when they cross roadways and that they eat the grass meant for other wildlife species.

Henderson firmly disagrees with both arguments, writing in an open letter on the Society’s website that several leading archaeologists, biologists and geologists believe the horses to be indigenous to North America, and secondly, that there is plenty of grass to go around for everyone.

“They used horses to open this whole country. They should mean more to us than someone’s opinion that they’re feral and stray and they don’t belong out there,” he added.

If anything, said Henderson, Alberta has a responsibility to protect its heritage. He noted that Mounties observed thousands of horses in the wild when they first came west and he hopes the government does something before the entire population becomes a historical footnote.

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Pickens Responds to Horse Hating Welfare Rancher in CBS Video

Information supplied by Saving America’s Mustangs

Good Ole Boy Mentality Runs Deep in DeMar Dahl’s Subsidized Cow Business Plan

Open Letter from Madeleine Pickens

Click Image to view CBS Video ~ photo by Julie Caramante courtesy of Horseback Magazine

“When the pro-slaughter crowd, led by the likes of Demar Dahl, talk about past practices as they applied to the management of our wild horses, or the approach perhaps more appropriately referred to as the, if we can’t eat it or make money off of it, let’s kill it, it is important to note they are talking about a time in our distant past.  Their reflections speak volumes about the situation we find ourselves in, with over 40,000 wild horses in pens, a senseless gather policy that is destroying one of the Nation’s valuable resources, and a general lack of a coherent strategy to manage our wild horse populations.  None of this is what Congress had in mind when they passed an Act 40 years ago to manage AND protect the wild horses in the Western United States.

I have offered a plan to take a huge step forward in managing our wild horses; a step that will begin to reduce the number of wild horses in pens, save the American taxpayer money, provide an opportunity for the public to see what is theirs in the wild horses’ natural habitat, and, lastly but not insignificantly, return some sense of dignity to these magnificent animals.  It is time we moved from the practices of the past century to a realistic and effective approach to managing our wild horses, an approach that doesn’t need to eliminate a species in the name of greed. “

Anti-Horse/Pro-Slaughter Elko Commissioner Endorses Welfare Ranching Over Eco-Sanctuary

News from Multiple Sources

DeMar Dahl continues to push for subsidized welfare cattle grazing over federally protected Wild Horses and Burros

Cow Crazy County Commissioner DeMar Dahl Brings Failed Federally Subsidized Welfare Ranching Program Into Public Focus

ELKO, Nev. —An Elko County commissioner and longtime critic of environmental restrictions on federal lands says a proposed eco-sanctuary for hundreds of wild horses in northeast Nevada will damage the range and could put some ranchers out of business.

“Is that what we want to do, take viable cattle ranches important to the economy and switch it so now they’re horse sanctuaries and the taxpayers support the horses there?” said DeMar Dahl, the commission’s chairman of public lands.

Madeleine Pickens, wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, and her nonprofit group Saving America’s Mustangs want to establish the eco-sanctuary across nearly 100 square miles east of Elko and south of U.S. Interstate 80 – from the Ruby Mountains to near the Utah line.

Pickens bought two ranches last year that cover about 18,000 acres south of Wells, but along with the titles come rights to a grazing allotment across another 550,000 acres of federal land that includes three existing Horse Management Areas designated by the BLM.

BLM officials announced on Thursday they will begin a two-year study to analyze the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of the plan.

Dahl said backers of the project “have a big hurdle to cross” to prove that the concentration of as many as 900 horses won’t cause harm to public rangeland in violation of U.S. environmental regulations.

Ranchers manage cattle and the range by putting cattle in one area for a time and then moving them to another so the range can heal, but with horses, “they just stay there year-round,” he told the Elko Daily Free Press.

Pickens disagreed. She said the proposed eco-sanctuary won’t affect cattle ranchers “one bit,” and she hopes “we can all be friends.”

Under the proposal, Saving America’s Mustangs would improve and maintain fencing and water wells and oversee management of the horses, which would remain under federal ownership. The group also would also provide Western history and wild horse-related education and promote ecotourism.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said the agency’s decision to formally review the proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act is only the first step in the approval process.

“It’s not a done deal,” Gorey said. He said the agency hasn’t decided whether to conduct an environmental assessment or the more extensive environmental impact statement.

“It’s a major proposal. This more than likely will be an environmental impact statement,” he said.