Horse Health

Letter to the editor: Oregon State University should focus more on ways to benefit lives of horses

written by Charlotte Roe and published on OSU’s Daily Barometer

“Livestock outnumber wild horses and burros by at least 37 to 1 on federal lands.”

I am saddened that OSU, a pioneer in environmental sciences, would become involved in unethical, highly controversial experiments on protected wild horses. This issue has already brought unfavorable publicity to a great University. We can all do better.

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Daily Barometer’s April 18 article on Wild Horse Sterilization Research stated that “BLM first contacted OSU and the School of Veterinary Medicine and asked them to examine three potential sterilization methods as a third party researcher and determine which one is the most safe and effective, according to VP Clark.” BLM cannot pre-pick its research partners. OSU competed for and won a grant of its own design to participate in these experiments.

The proposed sterilization experiments would be performed on 225 wild mares and young fillies in a non-sterile outdoor pen without pre-operative or post-operative standard care . Invasive and highly risky surgeries using “inferior” veterinary methodologies would be performed on these already highly stressed animals. Many will die, according to the BLM’s own estimates. The subjects of these brutish experiments, if they survive, would no longer be wild by nature.

The experiments violate the guidelines of AAALAC, which accredits OSU’s animal research activities. They would also violate the law. The Bureau of Land Management has no statutory authority to conduct invasive experimentation on protected wild horses.

Assistant Professor Dawn Sherwood asserted that wild horses are overpopulating, ruining the range and competing with other species. This is an old canard. Wild mustangs have long been accused of ruining the rangelands by commercial interests that treat federal lands as their private domain. Yet BLM statistics count 47,329 wild horses on federal lands totaling 31.6 million acres in 2015. On average, that amounts to 667.6 acres per horse — hardly an overpopulation. Dr. Gus Cothran, the leading U.S. specialist on equine genetics, maintains that the majority of BLM-managed wild horse herd areas are far below the population levels required for genetic viability.

Livestock outnumber wild horses and burros by at least 37 to 1 on federal lands. Cattle typically congregate around water holes; predator-wary wild horses drink and move on. Cattle and sheep, having no upper teeth, use their palates to rip the grass and often uproot forage. Equines’ teeth clip the grass down. Unlike cattle, horses do not digest grass seeds but distribute them like “seed farmers.” They coexist with livestock and with many wild species.

The Administration maintains that by simply observing and evaluating the proposed experiments, OSU will distance itself from the outcomes. Yet by enabling research that abuses protected animals, the University’s good name and the credibility of its students will be badly compromised.

There’s time for a reset: reject this bogus research, and instead examine ways to better the lives of wild horses and burros through humane management practices by perfecting reversible methods of fertility control and by improving the range ecology for all species.


Charlotte Roe

19 replies »

  1. Sorry what a load of crap. Another way to spend money. Talk about total destruction of our wild horses and burros. God help them! The BLM are just looking for legal ways to kill them. They can’t send them to slaughter so let’s just kill them by doing experiments on them. This Dept of the government needs to be totally dismantled!! Just disgusting!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has not established the true population numbers of wild horses and burros on their congressionally designated range lands and therefore there is no justification for any sterilization of wild horses and burros. None.
    If any employee of the Department of Interior / Bureau of Land Management has stated to you otherwise, then they are in violation of Title 18 (18 U.S.C. § 1001). Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is the common name for the United States federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which generally prohibits knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in “any matter within the jurisdiction” of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial
    18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal
    Current through Pub. L. 114-38. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.)
    US Code Per the US Department of Justice, the purpose of Section 1001 is “to protect the authorized functions of governmental departments and agencies from the perversion which might result from” concealment of material facts and from false material representations.
    In addition, the sterilization of any wild horses or burros by Oregon State in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management is in direct conflict with the recent National Academy of Science (NAS) report and recommendations. “The NAS findings clearly state that the BLM has failed to provide accurate estimates of the nation’s population of wild horses and burros. Therefore, the NAS cannot conclude that a state of over-population exists and or provide a recommendation for artificial management considerations such as fertility controls to control populations for which the complex population dynamics are currently unknown.” The NAS institute said the report lent credence to accusations that the bureau [BLM] has been ignoring science and grossly mismanaging the wild equines, and that it pursued policies that favored corporate livestock grazing interests over the interests of the wild horses and burros. That, it said, was in direct contradiction to the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been dealing with BLM and their unethical practices for over ten years!
    It is all about the money be it cattle or gravel quarrys. They consider wild horses a throw away animal. I wrote to the BLM office and suggested that we horse advocates would be happy to pay the same for grazing rights as the ranchers do. If it’s all about the money, here is a solution. My letter went unanswered .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wild Horse & Burro removals have been and are still in violation of the LAW

    GAO Report 1990 (excerpts)

    Click to access 149472.pdf

    GAO found that despite congressional direction, BLM’S decisions on how
    many wild horses to remove from federal rangelands have not been
    based on direct evidence that existing wild populations exceed what the
    range can support.

    BLM could not provide GAO with any information demonstrating that federal
    rangeland conditions have significantly improved because of wild
    horse removals.

    We do not agree with BLM’s position that our statement reveals a misunderstanding about how BLM develops its appropriate management levels, We understand that wild horse levels are prepared as part of the land use planning process mandated by FLFNA. However, we do not believe that a level can be justified as representing a sound management decision merely because it is recorded in a land use plan. If a level is developed without regard to land conditions or wild horse range impact, its inclusion in the land use plan does not make it more useful or appropriate. In this connection, BLM provides no evidence to refute our finding (along with the finding of Interior’s Board of Land Appeals) that wild horse levels are being established arbitrarily without a sound factual basis.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Louie, how is it that the GAO sees the truth in this crap from 16 years ago and more recently – yet this is no reason to change the way the BLM does things? The BLM is its own entity – does not answer to anyone but ranchers? I know, we have all been watching these travesties of roundups for YEARS – this is nothing new. Watching the videos of these blankety blank roundups – watching these horses lose everything & yet it continues. Am I emotional? Hell, yes! As if that’s a bad thing (per our “critics)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Anyone who suffered through the recent BLM Wild Horse and Burro meeting heard one of the head (introduced as “chief”) BLM decision-makers, Dean Bolstad whine over and over about how the BLM does not have enough money for the wild horse and burro program. Wild horses and burros need almost NO funding if allowed to live in peace on their congressionally designated and legal herd area lands. The 1971 Congressional Wild Horse and Burro Act (WH&BA) which states that the land where wild horses and burros were found at the time of the passing of the Act, is to be devoted “principally” but not exclusively to the wild horses’ and wild burros’ welfare in keeping.

    So where is our (as tax-payers) money going?

    Expenditures and Collections
    “In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM was allocated $79.9 million for its rangeland management program. Of that figure, the agency spent $34.3 million (43 percent) on livestock grazing administration. The other funds covered such activities as weed management, rangeland monitoring (not related to grazing administration), planning, water development, vegetation restoration, and habitat improvement. In 2014, the BLM collected $12.1 million in grazing fees.”

    “What can be done to address the problems associated with public lands livestock grazing? There is a simple answer: end it. Get the cows and sheep off, let the wild creatures reclaim their native habitat, and send the ranchers a bill for the cost of restoration.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. anyone have a pic from that whole foods nov roundup…didnt they shoot them? then take the mares? i had a pic of a stallion in a truck tied up with a gun to its head! and isnt it true that whole foods ordered so much beef from the cattlemens assoc. they destroyed the org herd for whole foods beef? I need this proof if u have it ty


    • Whole Foods Beef Supplied by Ranchers Behind Massive Oregon Roundup
      Natural food giant urged to stop selling meat from animals grazed in mustang habitat
      “By providing a commercial venue for CNB beef products, Whole Foods is financially endorsing and contributing to this unnecessary and inhumane removal of iconic mustangs from our public lands.”

      November 10, 2015 – The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is calling upon Whole Foods Market to stop selling beef supplied by ranchers behind the massive roundup of 1,400 wild horses currently underway in Oregon.
      The roundup is being conducted to allow members of the Beatys Butte Grazing Association to run more cows on the public lands from which the wild horses are being removed. Several members of the Grazing Association supply beef to Country Natural Beef, a Burns, Ore. supplier to Whole Foods.
      These ranches include
      Roaring Springs Ranch,
      the Fitzgerald Group, Fitzgerald Ranch and
      Otley Brothers Ranch.
      Stacy Davies,
      the head of the Beatys Butte Grazing Association is also the marketing director for Country Natural Beef (CNB) and manager of Roaring Spring Ranch. Mr. Davies has been a vocal proponent for the mass removal of mustangs from the Beatys Butte Herd Management Area, which is federally-designated as wild horse habitat.
      In addition to Beatys Butte, CNB suppliers also hold permits in other Oregon-based Herd Management Areas that saw horse roundups this year. In total, 2,000 wild horses – nearly half the state’s remaining wild horse population – will be removed from public lands in Oregon this year.

      Thoughts from AWHPC observer Carol Statton:

      I was really blown away by the Beatys Butte horses; blown away by their incredible beauty, spirit and adaptability to their whole world being turned upside down. There were the few that made the contractors really have to work harder; the ones whose spirit was not going to be taken without every effort to evade the predators in the sky. But most ran as directed and once within the confines of the corrals, stood watching and trying to figure out the new reality they had been thrust into. With human beings standing just on the other side of these foreign rails, the horses didn’t lash out as I would have expected. Tired and without understanding, they waited as they were separated and loaded. It was only when they were being hauled away that I heard the sounds of fear and resistance return through hooves hitting side panels of the trailers.
      Total Deaths: 16

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This has nothing to do (much) with todays subject, BUT:
    I have to say that its great the Bison is now our “national” ? animal – but what has been done to them has been done to our wild horses & burros – many others, too, but the wild horses & burros did so much for this country – no politician stepping up & making a case for a wild horse being our “national” animal. Heck, we cant even get the SAFE Act passed – can you imagine the turmoil if the wild horse had been chosen?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maggie, I have to add that though I admire and respect Bison, horses have a longer ancestral claim on this continent. They originated here and Bison arrived only later. Some archaeologists have suggested it was the massive influx of Bison competing for forage that initially shifted horse populations around, which makes some sense since there is little fossil evidence of Bison west of the Continental Divide; they were primarily a plains animal until driven westward by colonial expansion. Wish I had a time machine to go back and look around (on horseback, of course!)

      Liked by 2 people

      • I should have said “mammal” rather than animal. Too bad there wasn’t some thought given regarding horses. But I guess that would mean someone actually was thinking! Read a very appropriate quote from a young gal on another blog – “Common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden” – good one, right?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Here’s the veterinarian’s oath I found on the AVMA site:

      Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

      I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

      I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.


  8. Found this tonight and found it extremely relevant so want to share it here:

    Blaise Pascal, as far back as the seventeenth century, foresaw our two opposed methods. Of them he said: “There are two equally dangerous extremes, to shut reason out, and to let nothing else in. It is the reductionist who, too frequently, would claim that the end justifies the means, who would assert reason as his defense and let that mysterium which guards man’s moral nature fall away in indifference, a phantom without reality.”

    Liked by 1 person

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