Horse News

Federal Judge Stops Inhumane Wild Horse Sterilization Experiments

By Carol Walker as posted on Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Federal Judge Stops BLM from Conducting Inhumane Wild Horse Sterilization Experiments

Portland, OR (Nov. 2, 2018) — U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman today issued a preliminary injunction to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from proceeding with controversial experiments to surgically remove the ovaries of wild mares in Oregon. The experiments were set to begin this month on mares recently rounded up from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area.

The decision handed a victory to wild horse advocates and plaintiffs in the case— the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), Animal Welfare Institute (AWI); The Cloud Foundation and its executive director Ginger Kathrens, who is also a member of the National BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board; and photographer Carol Walker.  Judge Mosman ruled that the coalition was likely to prevail on its claims that the BLM’s restrictions on public observation of the sterilization procedures violated their First Amendment rights, and that BLM’s decision to drop further inquiry into whether the sterilization procedure was “socially acceptable” was arbitrary and capricious.

Judge Mosman also stated that the plaintiffs’ arguments for an independent veterinary observer to monitor the procedures and to place non-intrusive cameras in the surgical and horse holding areas were reasonable. The ruling halts the surgical sterilization experiments until the court reaches a final decision in the case.

“We’re pleased that Judge Mosman recognized the strong public interest in humane treatment and protection of wild horses and our clients’ strong First Amendment rights to observe the procedures being performed on these federally protected animals,” added Nick Lawton, an attorney for Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, who is representing the plaintiffs.

“We hope that the BLM will reconsider its plans to conduct this inhumane research and focus instead on humane, scientifically recommended forms of population management, including PZP fertility control,” said Brieanah Schwartz, government relations and policy counsel for AWHC.

“We thank the court for preventing the BLM from proceeding with a reckless and inhumane surgical sterilization experiment that would endanger the welfare and lives of federally protected wild horses,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., equine protection manager for AWI. “Today’s ruling is a decisive victory for animal welfare and for the American people, who not only cherish wild horses but have a First Amendment right to understand how the federal government is treating and managing these herds on public lands.”

“Hopefully, BLM will rethink their decision to move forward with the most inhumane and impractical management tool imaginable,” stated Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation. “For decades, humane fertility vaccines have been available and, where used, have been successful. Unfortunately, BLM has resisted getting out on the range and using them. Now is the time for the agency to change course.”

“The BLM should not be allowed to proceed with these deadly and inhumane surgeries on our wild mares.” added Carol Walker, wild horse photographer. “Hopefully our Preliminary Injunction will be the first step in stopping this gruesome sterilization.”

This is the second time wild horse advocates have stopped BLM from proceeding with these risky experiments. In 2016, the BLM dropped plans to conduct the research after AWHC and The Cloud Foundation filed a similar lawsuit.

The experiments called for performing an outdated surgical procedure called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves manually twisting, severing and removing ovaries via an incision in the mares’ vaginal walls. Veterinarians called the procedure unscientific, inhumane and dangerous, noting that it would result in pain, suffering and potentially life-threatening complications for wild mares. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the procedure was “inadvisable for field application” due to risk of bleeding and infection. Video of the procedure can be seen here.

The BLM had planned to move forward with the experiments despite massive public opposition and the withdrawal of Colorado State University from the project.

For more information on the lawsuit, click here.

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is a national wild horse advocacy organization whose grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

 The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.

The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, that grew out of Executive Director Ginger Kathrens’ knowledge and fear for wild horses in the West. TCF works to educate the public about the natural free-roaming behavior and social structure of wild horses and the threats to wild horse and burro society, to encourage the public to speak out for their protection on their home ranges, and to support only humane management measures. Kathrens serves as the Humane Advisor on BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.

Carol Walker is a renowned wild horse photographer who regularly photographs wild horses throughout the West, including those living in the Warm Springs HMA. She is the Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

12 replies »

  1. Finally, this is the best news we have heard in a long time. Many many people wrote and called and were a voice for our wild ones against this inhumane torturous abusive plan of the BLM. Each and every person who fought against this deserves thanks. This battle has now been won but the war is not over and we will continue to fight for these and all wild horses and burros and fight against animal abuse and fraud and corruption of the BLM.

    Dr. Charles Mayo, of the famous Mayo Clinic, stated:
    “I abhor vivisection … it should be abolished…I know of no discovery that could not have been obtained without it….”

    Liked by 2 people

    • GG, read this again. It is NOT a final decision, but an important preliminary injunction prior to a later final ruling.

      Also not mentioned but relevant, that these proposed sterilizations would violate the 1971 Act, since roundups, removals, surgeries, monitoring and releases are the highest cost activities imaginable, and performing needless sterilizations in off-range corrals can only be construred as “harassment, or death” and of course would not be performed in areas where wild horses were “presently found” in 1971. Also not clear what oversight and responsibilities, if any, the wildlife agencies of OR have in this supposed “research.”

      “It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands…”


      “All management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level and shall be carried out in consultation with the wildlife agency of the State wherein such lands are located…”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes this is a Preliminary Injunction to stop the spaying which was scheduled to start on November 5, this coming Monday, which will delay the experiments until our case can be heard in court. Likely this will not happen for several months, so the experiments on these particular mares will not go forward because part of the plan was to do the spaying on mares in varying stages of pregnancy. By spring they will have foaled. Hopefully this plan by the BLM will not go forward at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agree and realize it is only a temporary “fix” but it is good news. In addition, I have little doubt that the BLM will continue this push on other wild horses and burros in other areas. The fight is far from over.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is the first I heard the BLM was intentionally planning to study the effects on mares at different stages of pregnancy, though many would of course be pregnant. Cannot even imagine how paid public servants could find this acceptable, humane, or anything but pointlessly cruel.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Oh yes, this was right in the EA. They were going to “study” the results which no doubt would have included aborted foals. Cruel and inhumane don’t even come close to describing it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is excellent news.
    The thing that keeps getting left out is the fact that they are NOT overpopulated.
    It is the range that needs to be managed

    From the Daily Pitchfork

    Cattle vs. Wild Horses (2002-2018). All data BLM.
    Posted on October 9, 2018 by Vickery Eckhoff /

    About 15,000 individuals and corporate entities hold public-lands grazing permits.

    The top 1% of them — only some 152 permittees — hold interests in an astonishing expanse, about a third of the total BLM grazing land area: some seventy-seven thousand square MILES.

    The next 5 percent of them hold about the next third of the total land area.

    The bottom 94 percent — about 14,000 permittees — account for only the final third of the BLM’s public grazing lands.

    The identities of the permittees are sometimes obscured by corporate names, but data provided by the BLM shows that the folks leasing great swaths of public land to graze their cattle and enjoy enormous government subsidies include both people and corporations on Forbes “Billionaires” and “Richest Americans” lists (see p. 138 or click here).

    When advocates claim that livestock outnumbers and out-grazes wild horses on public lands, this is not an emotional argument or an opinion. It is an argument based on the above data from the BLM and other government sources — data that the BLM doesn’t make available to the public and media, because it doesn’t want them to know…about the cattle, their owners, the damage they cause, and the massive subsidies they are taking from average Americans.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The real surgical need is for liposuction — to remove the fat out of BLM’s budget and to cull the overpopulation of BLM staff that hatched this evil scheme. Fortunately, the Federal District Court has just imposed a preliminary injunction. For now at least, the wild horses, burros, and mules are safe.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Carol, thanks for your endless good efforts.

    I thought I read someplace that they would pregnancy check mares first, then not use any that were pregnant. Without checking, of course many would be pregnant but I didn’t realize terminating pregnancies in this most indifferent manner was indeed part of the “research.” If so, it negates the already negligible value of the “research” since mares in various stages of pregnancy do not constitute a uniform test group. One doubts they planned to isolate and document by pregnancy stage the later behaviors of the unfortunate mares (at least those that survived). In other words, I have not seen anything indicating this “study” was to be divided into different stages of pregnancy and studied for those distinctions.

    My understanding was that killed/aborted foals and fetusus were simply collateral to the actual focus of the purported “research.” One has to suspect the handling and disposal of these was part of the reason to limit public attendance and documentation — though of course still planning on public money to pay for all this.

    That surviving sterilized mares will not reproduce but will still eat, drink and interact in herd hierarchies as before is not rocket science. And unless they are returned to their exact home range and herd, they will be of course randomly jumbled into new herd dynamics, which would skew any purported value of the “research” anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This group may be able to help our wild horses and burros?
    American Anti-Vivisection Society
    Ending the use of animals in science through education, advocacy, and the development of alternative methods.
    What is Vivisection? Vivisection is the practice of animal experimentation. This can include administering drugs, infecting with diseases, poisoning for toxicity testing, brain damaging, maiming, blinding, and other painful and invasive procedures.



    American Anti-Vivisection Society

    The use of animals in product testing is, ultimately, a consumer issue. Animal testing for cosmetic and household products will continue unless concerned citizens take action with their purchasing power. By making informed, humane choices, and encouraging others to do the same, individuals can push for an end to product testing and stop the needless suffering of countless animals each year.

    AAVS is happy to provide the Compassionate Shopping Guide – a list of cruelty-free companies that have been certified by the Leaping Bunny Program.

    Founded in 1996, the Leaping Bunny Program is managed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), a group of several animal protection organizations that work with companies to verify the elimination of any new animal testing from those companies’ cosmetic, personal care, and household products. It offers the Leaping Bunny Logo, which can be placed on products of certified companies, and serves as an internationally recognized sign of a trustworthy, animal-friendly product.
    Click here to view a list of Leaping Bunny certified companies.


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