Horse News

Opponents of Wild Horse Cull in Australia Say Some Have Been Left to Die Slowly

By Caitlyn Gribbin of ABC News

Opponents of a cull of thousands of wild horses in Western Australia say they have evidence the animals are not being killed humanely

Photo: One of the thousands of wild horses that were shot in the cull. (Libby Lovegrove: Wild Horses Kimberley)

Photo: One of the thousands of wild horses that were shot in the cull. (Libby Lovegrove: Wild Horses Kimberley)

Over the past week, more than 7,000 brumbies have been shot dead in the remote East Kimberley, using rifles fired from mustering helicopters.

Traditional owners, the RSPCA, and local graziers admit brumby numbers are out of control and have endorsed the cull because the horses are destroying native habitat near the WA/Northern Territory.

The Aboriginal Lands Trust undertook the cull on two stations with Aboriginal pastoral leases.

It is being overseen by veterinarian Jordan Hampton.

“You have two people in a small mustering helicopter and the shooter has a high-calibre semi-automatic weapon,” he said.

“They’re called SLRs, they’re similar to military rifles that were used in the Vietnam war.”

Dr Hampton is monitoring animal welfare during the operation.

“The helicopter pilot gets the shooter side on as close as he can to the animal, and then there’s our policy of repeat shooting,” he said.

“It’s known as mandatory overkill; each animal is shot more than once to ensure that it is indeed dead.”

RSPCA supports cull as little food or water for horses

The RSPCA is supporting the cull, saying it is inhumane to let the horses live because there is not enough food and water.

It says it demanded the brumbies be killed instantly through an accurately-fired shot, through the head or thorax.

But Libby Lovegrove, from activist group Wild Horses Kimberley, says she has evidence that has not happened.

“The photos, there’s one there of a horse that’s been shot in the shoulder and he’s been left to die, you can see the blood running down his leg,” she said.

Ms Lovegrove says the photos were taken by one of the stations’ employees on the October 30.

In one photo, a brumby is standing in a paddock and Ms Lovegrove says the horse is bleeding from a bullet wound on its left fore quarter.

“That bullet would’ve gone into its shoulder,” she said.

“Eventually it probably would either bleed to death slowly in the 40 degree heat or it would just carry that wound around with it, and it would be in tremendous pain.

“The other photographs are of a mare and a young colt, they all looked to be in terrific condition but they’ve both been shot, one of them in the wrong place.

“My major concern is when they shoot the mares, the foals that are left there have no way of surviving, they die slowly, it’s pretty terrible.”

Vet admits some horses still alive after being shot

In a statement, the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs say they are confident the operation was conducted as professionally and humanely as possible.

Dr Hampton, who examined 452 of the 7,000 dead horses, admitted some were still alive after being shot.

“That’s part of the assessment and also the potential for the animal to show signs of having had a protracted death,” he said.

“We found animals alive associated with approximately one per cent of all the animals that were targeted.”

Wild Horses Kimberley says the brumbies should not be shot, but instead mustered and gelded.

But Dr Chris Pollitt, a veterinarian and feral horse researcher, says that is not viable and brumbies wreck the environment.

“Like looking at the surface of Mars, there was absolutely no natural pasture and it really did look red and barren,” he said.

And, he rejected the prospect of gelding.

“When you have extensive populations, difficult terrains, it’s not just as simple as you think,” he said.

RSPCA says it is pushing for a long-term strategy to control horse numbers and has requested that the photos in question be sent to them.

Ms Lovegrove wants the killing of the horses to get international attention.

“I’m in touch with the Mustang people in America because in the States now they’re passing laws to save their Mustangs,” she said.

42 replies »

    • why are we killing our horses???? I’m a horse owner of several. I read this crap really ticks me off. you have to shot them? you people should be punished and sent to jail for a crime. people are going to jail for animal abuse on dogs and cats and horses now. WTH!!!! One day! there will be NO horses left I hope to god not! why! so that way other Countries can just starve and be ashamed. Go kill a wilderbeast! there are lots of those or some kind of other animals. who you think brought these wild horses here? Read your bibles people. gods coming for you round ups killers. I hate you guys! are ya proud of being in the air shooting? How about us Americans shot you down. You kind of people will always have bad luck in your lifes killing horses. I promise you that!!!!


  1. This is brutal. Everyone knows that you need senior mares to guide the bands. you need young ones in training. How does the shooter know from high up which horse is which age? They don’t. The herds could end up with no senior mares who know where the water and food is and then they will all die. This is just too cruel. The males need to be gelded or mares given infertility drugs.


    • LinBro, from the photos and information I’ve seen posted here it’s clear they are shooting any horse standing, with at least two rounds. There are none spared, not even foals.


  2. According to the report I read they tried to say that all horses were killed instantly with one shot. Really?? Really??? Out of 3,000 dead horses all were killed instantly. Again another country trying to cover their own ass so the public doesn’t come down on the. Do they really think everyone in the public is stupid? I’m guess so.


  3. This is MASSIVE animal cruelty! Oh Pleeeease! It is common sense a majority of horses would NOT be immediately killed from a rifle from an airplane! Wolves in the U.S. are shot this way & suffer terribly. Australia does not have a history nor policy of humane treatment of animals. Their sheep & cattle are shipped under horrible conditions. Thousands of kangaroos are slaughtered. Here we go again with wild horses that are known to be able to manage their own herds & the ability to survive under extreme conditions. I doubt that the brumbies are being killed for “their own good.” What agriculture group needs the land!?!? And very “telling,” Australian wild horses are labeled “feral vermin” (like U.S. wild horses & wolves are labeled). It is legal to hunt brumbies. For “they don’t belong in Australia,” as they arrived with English settlers. Where DO wild horses belong?? Humans could not have survived & prospered without wild horses. Just like with American wild horses, there is a massive outcry in Australia against killing their wild horses. And outcry from around the world! But again, like in the U.S., the government does what it wants w/o considering more humane options. Just kill, kill, kill. I am completely torn apart by this continuing inhumane, torture of animals! The unconscionable mind-set of man! I read the horse is the most abused animal. I now believe this this to be true. Mercy.


  4. I heard that many of the burros in the Texas Big Bend State Park were gut-shot and left to suffer during the massive burro killings a few years ago. I guess the officials in Australia have about the same respect for the Brumbies that the BLM & USFS & USPS have for our wild horses and burros.


  5. It is a terrible cold crime. I would suggest writing to the Australia national tourist agency and letting them know you are calling for tourism boycott of the country.

    There may also be a toll on the shooters. In a similar action here in CA, helicopter shooting of the feral goats at China Lake Naval Weapons Station, at least one shooter was ravaged by PTSD from that experience. I know this because I helped treat him at a residential treatment center, where he told his story. Of course it is confidential, but all who consider this brutality as an alternative, or who are in it for the money, should hear what might happen to them in its wake,

    Suffering of the animals included.


  6. Only wild horses are blamed on ruining the environment. Only wild horses are breeding out of control. Well, humans are ruining the world with their lies and greed. How do humans get off believing that they have the right to decide which species lives, and which species dies? To determine the method of their death and use terms like “culling” as justification of total annihilation! Once again, no shame only greedy gain!


  7. While I agree this is a horrible situation, the article fails to reference information which would be helpful.

    For instance, we know climate change had drastically warmed Australia and will do so even more; we’ve seen enormous fires (though I am not sure if they were in the Kimberley area) which surely displaced any wildlife who survived, including horses; we know sheep are the favored species in Australia and that they are typically very damaging (read: desertifying) to ecosystems; we know the horses are not thin here.

    The horses may be too numerous but why are they the only species being targeted? The issue is deeper than a single species which seems to be a lightning rod for all human enmity. Even the notion of shooting them using military techniques and rifles is appalling to read.

    If the situation in Australia is as complex as ours there are many facets which this article overlooks. We need better reporting.

    That said, we need to get our own house in order before presuming to judge and rail against other countries. I’m sorry to say we still have a long ways to go.


    • We will not be silent in our efforts to protect our own wild horses & burros, and we won’t be silent in protecting them worldwide, either. The only thing worse than a shameful act is if nobody were to be a voice against it.
      Regarding the fires in Australia, wild horses actually help to prevent fires. They are an important part of the ecology. Here in the U.S.A., the BLM and Forest Service mismanage public lands and then have a “LET IT BURN” policy.


      • Debbie, agreed. My point was the massive fires very likely moved horses into other areas, which could easily then be defined as “overpopulating” that area, though the causes are not strictly reproduction rates.
        I well understand what is happening in the U.S. regarding fires, and the arguments wildlife ecologist Craig Downer makes about the role wild horses and burros play in preventing them.
        I also understand about speaking out; however I am not well versed with the legal situation of brumbies. It seems they do not have the supposed legal protections we have in the USA. It’s troubling, for example, to learn the RSPCA is fully on board with this aerial massacre.


  8. They should have tested this first. The Veterinarian and several others including the shooters could have been on the ground running on foot and then someone could have shot multiple times all over them! Then if they were entirely accurate 100 percent of the time they could have continued with a new vet and crew, of course, they could test it again until its accurate…..This Is one of the ABSOLUTE MOST REPUGNANT KILLINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN!


    • This is not the first time. In 2005 & 2006 @ 2000 wild horses in Australia were killed by gunshot in helicopters. Same thing: Foals w/o mothers dying, horses injured dying the slow death. Of course the government knew what would happen, even before “practice runs.” But it is “only” a feral wild horse: vermin. The government does not care…again…$$$. And Australian good ole boys out for the fun of the kill. And torturing.


  9. This is inhumane and needs to stop. Birth control works. Stronger laws need to be enforced for breeders to take back the equine they sell for a profit. Education on how to have a plan if you cant take care of your horse, many can be re-homed. This is so sad. The worst part is these horses were treated more humanly than the U.S.A. horses, walking a slow line to the auction and then to the slaughter house in Mexico and Canada and now in many states in the U.S.A. Death is not quick for the U.S.A horses. All due to greed, the cattlemen want their land back. The breeders just want to make money and do not care what happens after the horse is sold.


  10. Sorry my anger got me in the first comment above. But I was thinking if this grass and water was so low, then why is the horse pictured as fit as horses in private barns? And yes they should pass protective laws in Australia and someone let this wonderful lady know that they should be passed and put in the hands of the horse people to protect them and NEVER in a governmental agency, they should receive funding from the government but it should be regulated, overseen, and managed by HORSE EXPERTS AND CARING PEOPLE! Next people, Vickery Eckoff just hit the nail on the head and broke the hammer doing it! This article she wrote is OUTSTANDING! Please read!


    • Boy, does she ever hit the nail on the head! AND clears up all the misinformation that AP apparently doesn’t care to investigate or research. Everyone needs to read this article and all of the other ones shes written on the subject of horse slaughter. Vickery is what all reporters should be.l




  12. What? One vet to oversee all this carnage and misery? Where is he stationed? on the ground in an office? in an airplane surveying all the targets? Why didn’t the RSPCA/ govt start working on this years ago–with PZP or other birth control drugs. Who are these marksmen that can shoot from an airplane and be sure the animal is dead? Guess that’s not true. Can you imagine the horror–your wild lands littered with horse bodies–and orphaned foals. This is not a video game, Australia!

    with horse bodies–not from natural causes


    • Isnt it strange that any pictures shown of the brumbies (dead or alive) show well-fed healthy looking horses. So many of the statements are identical to the ones made here by the BLM etc etc. The thing is if a large number of horses were culled in 05 or o6 and “they are reproducing at more(!) than 20% – the litter effect must be going on in Australia like it is here! There certainly should be a backlash about this.


  13. This is identical to the killing that was going on in the US in the fifties, sixties and even before that. The wild horses in every state was shot just like these are being killed now. The area where these horses are located is huge and is millions of acres that is basically empty of towns and people. If you look this up on Google Earth you can get some idea of the size of it. I have a good idea that the government has plans for this area that don’t include the horses just like what is happening here. Ten thousand horses in a area this size is such a small number that they would get lost in the distance.


  14. They, & we, need to cull the humans!! That is completely unacceptable, especially killing mares & leaving their foals to die, & especially their “method” of equine assassination, shooting from above, in helicopters! That’s what our own stupid country allows for wolf “hunting”! I’d like to find these sadistic human’s camps, bases, or wherever, & shoot them down, the same way! This is not instant death, this is slow, traumatic, terrifying, & agonizing! Sick bastards!


  15. Really??? Dr. Chris Pollitt says he would rather shoot the horses knowing at least 1% suffer prolonged death than gather and geld the males to stop reproduction!! I don’t think they talked about HIS balls but maybe they should!


  16. Heart of Australia
    This is a song which I wrote for the wild horses of Australia, the Brumbies. It was initiated by my friend, Vahana Hilke Eitner, and based on an original poem by Laura Kett.


  17. IcySpots, it is a beautiful song. It was written and performed by Louise du Toit…not me. The caption below it is from YouTube. I should have posted the entire caption, but decided not to, as I couldn’t find the organization that was listed in the link.

    Louise du Toit – Heart of Australia
    Louise du Toit – Official Website @

    This is a song which I wrote for the wild horses of Australia, the Brumbies. It was initiated by my friend, Vahana Hilke Eitner, and based on an original poem by Laura Kett. The beautiful brumbies can supported through HOOFS2010 Inc – a wonderful non-profit Australian organisation dedicated to protect them, tirelessly working towards their ultimate survival. The link to their website is the following:


  18. Sorry, it is the same old BS. The horses look in good condition and it is unlikely they are harming the habitat as horses generally do not rather they help the environment. This barbarism is found everywhere. Why?


  19. The brumbies are often blamed for what others have done. They are used as scapegoats, and the people, instead of doing the right thing, and correcting their own excesses, chose to dishonestly blame the wild horses and then proceed to engage in their ignorant and save cruel acts against these highly evolved beings in horse form to whom we owe so much. Who brought them to Australia in the first place? And what about the milllions of sheep and cattle decimating Australia, its marsupials. Remember horses can build soils and disperse seeds and to a greater degree than is the case with ruminant grazers: sheep, cattle, deer. So much ignorance and violence. There’s a better way of life, of learning to share the land and freedom and in the appropriate place. And we humans must learn it soon.


  20. This must stop. It should be illegal to shoot from a helicopter. You can’t be certain the animal is dead flying overhead. Just plain slaughter.


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