U.S. Government’s Horrific Treatment of America’s Wild Horses Isn’t Just Inhumane—It’s Against the Law

By Hilary Wood as published on AlterNet

The interests of the nation’s wild horses on taxpayer-supported public lands have been neglected in favor of profit-driven special interests.

Earlier this month, the federal Bureau of Land Management decided to withdraw its plan to perform sterilization experiments on 225 wild mares, rather than face multiple lawsuits. On the heels of this victory came a shocking announcement: The BLM Advisory Board recommended killing approximately 45,000 wild horses now held captive in government corrals.

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Public outrage and the outpouring of opposition were immediate and overwhelming. After just a few days, a BLM spokesperson stated the agency would continue its current practices and not euthanize the horses as recommended. (Being all too familiar with BLM’s double-talk, we must add the caveat “for now” to that statement.)

Perhaps as many as two million horses once roamed free in the United States. Their numbers were decimated, reduced to thousands, as they were brutally captured and slaughtered for various reasons. Following concerted nationwide campaigns, Congress unanimously passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, in 1971, declaring that wild horses should and would “be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death.” The BLM was placed in charge of managing herds on public lands.

Since then—contrary to its mandate to protect horses—the BLM continually favors special interests that want to exploit public lands, such as livestock, corporate ranching, oil and gas, mining and even big game hunting. These industries have lobbied against wild horses’ right to live their lives out on federal lands, even though the 1971 Act requires it.

If it had its way, the BLM—the department responsible for the protection and preservation of America’s wild horses—would instead drive these horses to extinction.

Thanks to the BLM’s annual roundups, close to 300,000 wild horses have been removed since the Wild Horse Act passed, and nearly 50,000 are now warehoused in poor government holding facilities.

So the BLM’s promise to maintain its current practices—for now—is insufficient, inhumane and unethical. The BLM’s current practices include roundups, slaughter and maintaining selective breeding stocks to produce horses who are more profitable at BLM auctions. However, the BLM must hear this from the public, not just from animal advocacy groups. When we filed a lawsuit to tell the BLM its plan to conduct invasive experimental sterilization surgeries on wild mares was illegal and unacceptable, the agency walked it back. Surely it shouldn’t take the threat of federal court to develop more sustainable policies.

Instead of practices that violate the law and the national commitment to keep wild horses wild, there are reasonable and practical alternatives that are in the best interests of horses and the public too. We can reduce livestock numbers on public lands, place a moratorium on roundups while increasing use of proven fertility control like the PZP contraceptive vaccine to stop overloading long-term holding facilities, expand gentling programs to increase adoption rates, encourage or develop eco-tourism opportunities, and engage in more private-public partnerships to humanely and successfully manage the horses.

The interests of wild horses on taxpayer-supported public lands should be considered in tandem with, not less than, any other interests—particularly special interests that profit from the use of these lands…(CONTINUED)

http://www.alternet.org/environment/us-governments-horrific-treatment-americas-wild-horses-isnt-just-inhumane-its-against

Feel Good Sunday: Laugh of the Week

“Sorry gang, I don’t mean to demean or overshadow our earlier Feel Good Sunday installment but I just could not resist the urge to include the funniest moment that I had this week.  Although this video, below, is a commercial it speaks to where a lot of us have been, MANY TIMES!  I showed it to Terry and we mutually had a great laugh but she quickly sobered up and said, “‘t was a good marketing move not to highlight a woman.’  I replied with, ‘No comparison intended,’ with all of my fingers crossed behind my back!!!’ ” ~ R.T.


Feel Good Sunday: Horses can learn to tell us how they feel

as published on The Washington Post

“Our aim was . . . to develop a tool to ‘ask’ horses whether or not they prefer to wear a blanket under different weather conditions,”

Click to visit and play video

Click to visit and play video

Twenty-two horses in Norway can tell you whether they want to wear a blanket or stick with bare backs, according to a new study.

This is, needless to say, a handy skill for anyone who resides in a northern nation that gets a lot of snow. But its discovery is also an important addition to understanding of horse smarts and learning abilities, according to researchers at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. They taught the horses to use symbols to indicate their blanket-wearing preference — and the equines’ easy mastery of the task suggests they understood that the symbols had meanings that led to outcomes.

“Our aim was . . . to develop a tool to ‘ask’ horses whether or not they prefer to wear a blanket under different weather conditions,” the authors wrote in Applied Animal Behaviour Science. In the end, they added: “Horses chose to stay without a blanket in nice weather, and they chose to have a blanket on when the weather was wet, windy and cold.”

More than a century ago, a German horse nicknamed Clever Hans became a celebrity in Europe for his whiz-like ability to answer complex math, reading and spelling questions by tapping his hoof. Today, he’s an example of some of the pitfalls of scientific studies involving people and animals: Hans, it turned out, was stumped when his human testers didn’t know the answer to the question — which meant he was actually clever at reading the unconscious cues of people.

Horse cognition research has come some way since then, and the animals have shown savvy at recognizing shapes and telling objects apart. But this task added another level.

The subjects were 23 ordinary riding horses with charming names including Poltergeist, Virvelvind and Romano (one horse died shortly after the training, leaving 22 in the end). All had previous experience wearing blankets when their owners deemed them necessary. To help the horses express their own preferences, the researchers created three simple boards: One with a horizontal bar meant “put blanket on”; an unmarked board meant “no change”; and a board with a vertical bar meant “take blanket off.”

Horses were presented with three boards with different meanings. Left to right, they meant: “Put blanket on,” “no change” and “take blanket off.” (Mejdell et. al./Applied Animal Behaviour Science)

Horses were presented with three boards with different meanings. Left to right, they meant: “Put blanket on,” “no change” and “take blanket off.” (Mejdell et. al./Applied Animal Behaviour Science)

Then the horses went through a methodical literacy course of sorts. First, the trainers introduced the symbols one at a time. Horses that touched it with their muzzles would be rewarded with a thin slice of carrot, and then the corresponding action would be carried out — the blanket taken on or off. Once the horses had that down, they were shown both symbols at the same time, but they only got their treats if they touched the “relevant” one. In other words, if a horse wearing a blanket touched the symbol that meant “put a blanket on,” he’d get nothing.

Horses learned touched their muzzles to the symbol that expressed their blanket preference. (Mejdell et. al. / Applied Animal Behaviour Science)

Horses learned touched their muzzles to the symbol that expressed their blanket preference. (Mejdell et. al. / Applied Animal Behaviour Science)

Next, the researchers introduced temperature to the equation. Horses were draped in thick blankets that made them sweaty and “obviously hot,” or they were put outside in what the Norwegians called “challenging weather” — so it really must have been awful — until they tensed, tucked in their tails or showed other signs of being cold. They had to pick the relevant symbol 12 times to move onto the next step, which was meeting the blank “no change” board. Picking that one always earned a carrot, but never a blanket status change.

After that, the horses saw all three boards in various combinations and locations, and only relevant choices led to snacks. Then they were given a “free choice” between two relevant symbols.

But the “ultimate test,” the researchers wrote, was carried out in the elements — several variations of them over the course of nearly a year. And the horses nailed it, each and every one of them.

“In total, these results strongly indicate that the horses had learnt to communicate their preferences using symbols,” the authors wrote.

Here’s a chart that depicts their choices:

The horses’ blanket choices in different types of weather. Two horses chose to stay without a blanket on Sept. 23, but they chose blankets on an even colder, sleety day (Mejdell et. al/Applied Animal Behaviour Science).

The horses’ blanket choices in different types of weather. Two horses chose to stay without a blanket on Sept. 23, but they chose blankets on an even colder, sleety day (Mejdell et. al/Applied Animal Behaviour Science).

The horses learned this all in just 10-15 minutes of daily training over 14 days, although a few class clowns slowed things down.

Poltergeist and Runa, for example, learned so fast that they “began to explore other possibilities and solutions to earn more carrot slices,” such as nibbling on the boards, and “needed time to be convinced that there were none,” the study said.

Blue, for his part, “seemed to enjoy the event of blankets taken on and off, as he always touched the ‘change’ symbol,” the authors wrote. But with a few extra hot and cold tests, Blue, like his peers, figured out that choices have consequences — in this case, sweat, shivers or just the right amount of toastiness.

In the Race for the Presidency, America’s Horses Could be the Biggest Losers

by Susan Wagner, President & Founder, Equine Advocates

“Both major Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have announced some disturbing appointments…”

All of the progress that has been made since the last horse slaughterhouse operating in the U.S. closed in 2007 is in danger of being reversed. This is why we are now urgently and respectfully calling on President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to end horse slaughter before they leave office with a special action, i.e. an executive order or a federal policy change that would accomplish that goal. We are asking you to “sign our petition” in order to reach them and have your voices heard.

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Both major Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have announced some disturbing appointments. Secretary Clinton has had an excellent voting record on animal issues over the years and is on the record as opposing horse slaughter which is why her choice of former Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar to head her Transition Team is mystifying. Salazar is ranked by many as one of the worst Interior Secretaries in American History (along with Albert Fall, James Watt and Gail Norton). He was a huge proponent of horse slaughter long before he was appointed to that post in 2009. In 2013, he resigned as Interior Secretary under questionable circumstances. It was revealed that under Salazar’s watch, Tom Davis, a known horse dealer and rancher, bought 1,794 Wild BLM Mustangs for just $10 apiece and sold them for slaughter in Mexico. We believe having Ken Salazar in any position of power would be a continued threat to the safety and protection of America’s wild and domestic equines. Please read this article that appeared in the Washington Times:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/oct/24/blm-illegally-sold-thousands-wild-horses-slaughter/

In addition, Salazar’s agenda to “industrialize” the West and America’s Public Lands amplifies the threat to America’s remaining wild horse and burro herds. We believe the damage he did while he was in office continues to have detrimental and dangerous effects on the wildlife and the land. We implore Secretary Clinton to please reconsider her appointment of Ken Salazar to her administration if she wins the election.

Donald Trump has no voting record as he has never held office before. However, his choice of proposed individuals to serve on his “Agricultural Advisory Committee,” if elected, reads like a  Who’s Who of horse slaughter supporters.  The list is so disturbing that there would be no doubt that the return of horse slaughter to the U.S. would just be a matter of time. It includes:

  • Forrest Lucas, oilman (Lucas Oil) and rancher – His political action committee (PAC), Protect the Harvest is, in our opinion, the most dangerous anti-horse/anti-animal/pro-puppy mill PAC in the nation. He said of his PAC, “…we’re out here organized…” and “…we need to get horse slaughter back.” Lucas was also named to Trump’s short list for Interior Secretary which would be a complete disaster for this country:

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/forrest-lucas-trump-interior-secretary-228364

  • Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma had signed a bill to legalize horse slaughter in her state.
  • Bob Goodlatte, Congressman from Virginia and former chair of the House Agriculture Committee, has been a major force in blocking legislation to ban horse slaughter for years and a supporter in bringing it back to the U.S.

For a complete list of Trump’s proposed Agricultural Advisory Committee members, click here:
https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/trump-campaign-announces-agricultural-advisory-committee

In addition, Trump has former Georgia Congressman, Jack Kingston as one of his advisers and also as a media spokesperson. Kingston was a member of the infamous 2011 Congressional Conference Committee that voted 3-1 (along with Senator Ray Blunt and former Senator Herb Kohl) to return horse slaughter to the U.S. They based their votes on the special interest-driven Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report #11-228 on Horse Slaughter. John Holland, President of the Equine Welfare Alliance successfully proved that the GAO Report was, in fact, fraudulent:

http://www.equinewelfarealliance.org/uploads/How_the_GAO_Deceived_Congress-final.pdf

Clearly, most Americans want to see an end to horse slaughter, but these candidates have selected individuals who we believe, if given the opportunity, would move to slaughter horses with no regard or consideration for the will of the vast majority of Americans on this issue.

The dangerous agendas of some lawmakers to quickly rebuild horse slaughterhouses in this country to satisfy special interests in the horse and ranching industries is a real threat. This goes hand-in-hand with how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now operating. At the most recent BLM Advisory Board Meeting, the the majority of its members voted to exterminate the 44,000 captured Wild Horses and Burros being held in long-term holding facilities. As outrageous and horrific as this sounds, we need to keep in mind that the Advisory Board has no power in the final decision. However, it is also probable that their votes reflect the desired agenda of the BLM with respect to these horses.

John Holland, President of the Equine Welfare Alliance said, “We believed right from the beginning that the use of all that stimulus money to gather so many horses was the BLM intentionally creating a crisis so they could force this decision later!”

Update: The news of how this Advisory Board voted sparked a tremendous public outcry and as a result, the BLM has since decided not to follow the advice of the majority of its members and will not kill these 44,000 wild equines. It should be noted that the one lone vote on the BLM Advisory Board against killing them was Ginger Kathrens, the Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation.

Unless we move forward and truly bring an end to horse slaughter, it is likely to return to our soil. The vast majority of Americans want it banned just as they also want our wild horse and burro herds preserved, protected and humanely managed.

Many horse advocates are supporting the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, better known as The S.A.F.E. Act (S1214/H.R. 1942). This bill needs to be amended before we can support it. There are no effective enforcement provisions in it.

The S.A.F.E. Act, if it becomes law, could easily be circumvented based on some of the language in it including the phrase, “…the knowing sale or transport of equines…” Killer buyers and those sending equines to slaughter are unlikely to admit their true intentions. Why give them an out if they get caught to say that they did not know? We would like to know who wrote this bill and why they chose to write it this way. Decide for yourself. Here is the language for The S.A.F.E. Act:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1942/text?resultIndex=1

We actually have all the ammunition we need to win the horse slaughter war.  A ground-breaking study published in Elsevier in 2010 clearly documented the dangerous health risks for people who eat the meat of horses that have been treated with the common drug, Phenylbutazone (or “Bute,” for short). This is proof that all of us can present to our lawmakers and the media as strong arguments to stop the return of horse slaughter to the U.S. Bute was important to use in this study because unlike some other drugs, it never leaves the body of the animal. Bute puts those consuming it at risk for a variety of cancers and blood diseases.

It is important to note that Bute is just one among numerous injectable, oral and topical drugs given to equines that has the disclaimer on the packaging, “Not intended for horses bred for human consumption.

NO EQUINE is bred for human consumption in this country!

Here is a link to that important landmark study:

http://www.equinewelfarealliance.org/uploads/Food_and_Chemical_Toxicology_FINAL.pdf

Further evidence is documented in the hundreds of articles and lawsuits that resulted from the shocking Horse Meat Food Fraud Scandal that gripped Europe in 2013 and now appears to be a threat once again. In addition, there is the 2015 Chapman University Study (also published by Elsevier) proving the unsavory discovery of horse meat and additional meats other than beef present in some chopped meat products in the American food supply. Given the lack of DNA species testing in this country, the presence of horse meat in our food supply may be more prevalent than believed.

Here is a link to the 2015 Chapman University Study:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713514004666

In December of 2014, the European Union (EU) banned the import of horse meat products from Mexico because most of the equines slaughtered there came from the U.S. and therefore are not safe for human consumption. (NOTE: The same U.S.-bred equines make up the majority of equines slaughtered in Canada for export to Europe and Japan, but inexplicably no such ban was placed on horse meat from Canada by the EU.) However, investigations indicate that there has been little to no decrease in the number of U.S.-bred equines being slaughtered in Mexico since the European ban took effect in January of 2015.

Where is all of this horse meat ending up if it’s not going to Europe or other identified markets? Investigators believe that some horse meat from Mexico is making its way into the American food supply. Food fraud is rampant all over the world. This country is not exempt.

Why is the slaughter of America’s equines tolerated? Ultimately, we are talking about morals and ethics. Horse slaughter is primarily used by special interests as a garbage disposal for those too greedy, callous and indifferent to take responsibility for the equines under their care.  How can we justify sending tens of thousands of equines across our borders into Mexico and Canada every year for people in other countries to eat knowing their meat is unfit for human consumption? The answer is simple:  There is no justification!

One reason I haven’t mentioned the extreme cruelty involved in horse slaughter is because of some sage comments made by philanthropist and horsewoman, Victoria McCullough, whom we honored in 2014:

“I believe that science is what will win for horses on the Hill – not cruelty. We’re inundated and desensitized to it. Cruelty is running over America – in our children, in our animals, in our education system – We are not accountable! But I learned that in order to win with the government it has to be intellectual and scientific.  I have to leave my emotions behind completely. I can’t take them with me. But they live with me every day.”

Thanks to Victoria’s efforts, Vice President Joe Biden attached language to the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 which President Obama signed into law to continue the defunding of horse meat inspectors in the U.S.

“We cannot win the border closure without defund because it’s a pyramid,” she said. “You have to defund horse slaughter in the U.S. first in order to have legality. There’s an issue. What are we really slaughtering and for whom? The arrogance and the lack of accountability are outrageous. And the liability does not disappear.”

Here is more information about the importance of what Vice President Biden accomplished for America’s horses in 2014:

http://www.columbiagreenemedia.com/chatham_courier/news/article_8aebadfe-5189-55c9-a2ba-5ab7c24c968e.html

We believe a remedy exists which would not involve a bill that needs to be passed or Congressional approval. Human Health and Food Safety, as outlined in this piece, are key to a federal ban.

Since both President Obama and Vice President Biden are acutely aware of all the dangers and risks associated with slaughtering horses for food, not to mention the liability factor, it could be a really wonderful and important part of the Obama/Biden legacy to end this unspeakable and un-American practice through a special action to ban horse slaughter and remove equines from the food chain.

Consequently, we need to start respectfully and earnestly imploring President Obama and Vice President Biden to take action before they leave office. Let them know how dire this situation truly is and how years of progress will evaporate if something is not done immediately. They know how most Americans feel about this. They saw the tremendous outcry against killing those 44,000 wild BLM horses and burros. We look to them to save America’s wild and domestic equines from slaughter!

As they say, there is strength in numbers, so please start by taking the time to sign our petition which is an appeal to be sent to both President Obama and Vice President Biden asking them to take action to ban horse slaughter before they leave office. To sign the petition, please see the list of What You Can Do below this article. (Note: Please also take the time to send a hand-written letter to each of them. Their mailing addresses are also provided below.)

If Obama and Biden do not act before the end of their administration, the fate of our horses will be placed in the hands of the next president. Now is the time for all of us to act. It is urgent that we act.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Please sign our petition appealing to both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to take action in banning horse slaughter entirely – both in the U.S., as well as stopping the transport of live equines from the U.S. across our borders into Mexico and Canada for slaughter or to any other country for that purpose. Please be sure to forward the petition and share it far and wide. We need a big and enthusiastic response in order for it to make a difference. We need to gather 100,000 signatures by Election Day to present to them. That number of signatures would ensure that both the President and V.P. would see the petition.
  • Please write a handwritten letter to both President Obama and Vice President Biden asking them to take steps to ban horse slaughter before they leave office. You have plenty of ammunition to use in the way of scientific studies, documentation and good arguments as provided in this article. Please use them, in addition to more abundant data now readily available online to back up any other points you wish to make. Please address separate letters to the President and V.P. Mail your letters to them in care of:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500


This is a shot that is well worth taking. We owe it to our horses to try.

Together we can make a difference!

Thank you!

Susan Wagner, President
Equine Advocates
http://www.equineadvocates.org

Click (HERE) To visit Equine Advocates

Insider’s Look: Wyoming Checkerboard Wild Horse Case

By Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

img_0006On Monday I was in Denver at the Byron White Courthouse for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in two cases for wild horses. I am a plaintiff in both these cases, and had waited an especially long time for this day, as our lawsuit was originally filed in District Court in Wyoming in September, 2014.

The old courthouse is beautiful, full of character and I enjoy looking around while waiting for our first Oral Argument. The judges were: Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr., Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe and Senior Judge Monroe G. McKay.

Our attorneys were Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP attorneys Bill Eubanks, Kathy Meyer and Nick Lawton.

Each side was only allowed 15 minutes, which could go a bit longer depending upon questions from the judges. Bill Eubanks argued for our side in both appeals. I was very impressed by his presentation and answers to questions, which were very thorough and methodical in laying out the important points. One issue that came up is that the BLM is wanting the Checkerboard case dismissed on grounds of mootness. Yet it is far from moot – on Friday the Decision Record was published by the BLM for the Checkerboard II Roundup, in which the BLM is again treating public lands as if they are private:  https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/59563/81678/95899/3c.DR_Checkerboard_Removal_2016.pdf

These are the two appeals:

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl Appellants v. Jewell, et al.

In the Checkerboard area in Wyoming, with alternating private and public lands on over 2 million acres we are fighting to keep our wild horse son our public lands, and to keep the BLM and private landowners treating public lands as if they are private. The consequences of this decision will have an impact on how our wild horses are treated in every Herd Management Area that includes private lands – not just other Checkerboard Areas like in Utah and Nevada.

WY State of Wyoming, Appellant v. United States Department of the Interior DOI, et al.; Intervenors American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl

In this appeal, the state of Wyoming sued the BLM to force them to remove wild horses from 7 herd management areas that were estimated to have more wild horses than the Appropriate Management Level. Here we a fighting to keep management of wild horses in Federal hands, where it belongs, rather than turning the management of our wild horses over to states who would as soon remove them all.

It was fascinating to me to listen to the back and forth between the attorneys and the judges. It was hard for me to tell how our side was doing, but I am hoping for the best. I was proud to be there representing our wild horses. We should hear the decision for both appeals in the next several weeks.

Related Posts:

Upcoming Checkerboard II Roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-federal-court-rules-blm-violated-law-in-checkerboard-roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-stop-the-blms-illegal-plans-for-the-checkerboard-roundup-ii-comment-by-friday-april-22

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/please-comment-on-the-blms-upcoming-checkerboard-ii-wild-horse-wipeout-plan

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-court-grants-wild-horse-advocates-right-to-intervene-in-state-of-wyoming-anti-mustang-lawsuit

Wyoming v. BLM and Intervention

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horse-advocates-blast-governor-mead-for-suit-against-feds-over-wild-horses

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-wyomings-governor-seeks-complete-annihilation-of-his-states-wild-horses

Checkerboard Roundup and Lawsuit

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-court-grants-emergency-inunction-to-delay-wyoming-wild-horse-roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-wyoming-wild-horse-roundup-delayed-as-advocates-appeal-to-tenth-circuit

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-court-denies-emergency-motion-allows-wyoming-wild-horse-roundup-that-turns-public-lands-over-to-private-livestock-interests

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-federal-court-rules-blm-violated-law-in-checkerboard-roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-fighting-to-save-wyomings-wild-horses-is-personal

America’s Wildlife Body Count

as published on/in The New York Times

“Wild Horses & Burros could be an addition to this most interesting, yet terrifying article as the BLM continues it’s quest to destroy all wild equines that roam free on their rightful range for the benefit of government subsidized ranching.  BLM and cattlemen are a match born in hell.!” ~ R.T.


“…it routinely kills predators and an astounding assortment of other animals — 3.2 million of them last year — because ranchers and farmers regard them as pests…”

Until recently, I had never had any dealings with Wildlife Services, a century-old agency of the United States Department of Agriculture with a reputation for strong-arm tactics and secrecy. It is beloved by many farmers and ranchers and hated in equal measure by conservationists, for the same basic reason: It routinely kills predators and an astounding assortment of other animals — 3.2 million of them last year — because ranchers and farmers regard them as pests.

To be clear, Wildlife Services is a separate entity, in a different federal agency, from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, whose main goal is wildlife conservation. Wildlife Services is interested in control — ostensibly, “to allow people and wildlife to coexist.”

My own mildly surreal acquaintance with its methods began as a result of a study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, under the title “Predator Control Should Not Be a Shot in the Dark.” Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin and his co-authors set out to answer a seemingly simple question: Does the practice of predator control to protect our livestock actually work?

unwantedbirds

To find out, the researchers reviewed scientific studies of predator control regimens — some lethal, some not — over the past 40 years. The results were alarming. Of the roughly 100 studies surveyed, only two met the “gold standard” for scientific evidence. That is, they conducted randomized controlled trials and took precautions to avoid bias. Each found that nonlethal methods (like guard dogs, fences and warning flags) could be effective at deterring predators.

Seven other studies met a slightly lower scientific standard, but produced conflicting results or were inconclusive.

So why is this agency so focused on killing predators? While predators are far from the leading cause of death of livestock, they are the most visible. Killing as many of them as possible in turn can feel like a deeply gratifying solution, in a way that dealing with disease or bad weather never has been. We seem to kill predators out of mindless, even primordial antipathy, rather than for any good reason. It is how we managed by the mid-20th century to eradicate gray wolves almost completely from the lower 48 states.

According to the Treves review, one organization of wildlife managers published a number of flawed or biased studies on lethal control in its scholarly journals. Then, in 2004, it published an article debunking some of those flawed studies. Thereafter, though, the same journals continued to cite the flawed studies as if they were still valid. Authors, editors and peer reviewers alike were seemingly blinded by conventional wisdom that killing predators protects livestock.

unwantedmammals

I thought Wildlife Services might have a different perspective on the Treves study, and this is where things turned weird. Gail Keirn, a legislative and public affairs aide for Wildlife Services, declined to arrange an interview. The agency would accept written questions, she said, to be answered in writing, a useful formula for public relations, not journalism. I’ve had better luck getting access at the C.I.A.

Soon after, Dr. Treves held an online session to introduce his study. Two journalists joined the conversation. But so did four other people — Wildlife Services employees, who refused to identify themselves by name despite repeated requests by Dr. Treves. The conversation stumbled to an awkward close.

It was a creepy moment, but it was also wonderfully inept. Even if Ms. Keirn wouldn’t identify herself, her phone number, from which she had dialed into the session, was prominently displayed in a screen shot Dr. Treves sent me afterward. When I emailed to question Ms. Keirn about it, she protested, “I thought this was an open forum” and a good opportunity for Wildlife Services “to learn more.” Later, she sent me a written statement from a Wildlife Services official who ignored the Treves study while citing some of the same studies found to be flawed in that 2004 critique.

It was perfect as slapstick, but also a pity, because taxpayers who spent $127 million in 2014 for the agency’s wildlife damage management operations deserve transparency. Instead, the agency reveals little more than its annual body count, listing only the species, the number of dead and the method of killing. Last year, for instance, it killed 68,905 coyotes using calling devices, snares and traps, “M 44 cyanide capsule” and other poisoning devices, and guns, sometimes fired with the help of “night vision/infrared equipment,” and sometimes from helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.

toolsofthecullBut why were different species killed, or where? Your guess is as good as mine — and not just about the predators but about the agency’s decision to kill 17 sandhill cranes last year, or 150 blue-winged teal ducks, or 4,927 cattle egrets. Before killing 708,487 red-winged blackbirds that year, did anyone weigh the damage they do to ripening corn and other crops against the benefit they provide by feeding on corn earworms and other harmful insects? Is the scientific support for killing 20,777 prairie dogs (on which the survival of species like the burrowing owl and the black-footed ferret depend), better than that for killing predators?

There is no way to verify the numbers Wildlife Services provides. The habit of secrecy is a pity because even critics of Wildlife Services acknowledge that killing is sometimes necessary. Feral swine (42,250 killed last year) are, for instance, a menace to agriculture and endangered species alike. Lethal control for livestock protection also “has to be on the table,” said Lisa Upson, executive director of the Montana conservation nonprofit group People and Carnivores. Ranchers will experiment with nonlethal methods first only if they have the option, as a last resort, of killing a specific individual predator that repeatedly attacks livestock. “A lot of ranchers have accepted that wolves are here to stay and have moved to saying let’s try some preventive things,” Ms. Upson said.

In Montana, Wildlife Services has recently begun to collaborate with Ms. Upson’s group and the Natural Resources Defense Council, both longtime critics, on nonlethal predator deterrence projects.

There is reason to hope for more substantial change. Last month, the Obama administration overrode objections by the State of Alaska and announced that 73 million acres of national wildlife refuges there are off limits to what Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, described as that state’s “withering attack on bears and wolves.” The next step ought to be a closer look at the federal government’s own predator control programs.

In their study, Dr. Treves and his co-authors urge the appointment of an independent panel to conduct a rigorous large-scale scientific experiment on predator control methods. They also recommended that the government put the burden of proof on the killers and suspend predator control programs that are not supported by good science. For Wildlife Services, after a century of unregulated slaughter of America’s native species, this could be the moment to set down the weapons, step out of the way, and let ranchers and scientists together figure out the best way for predators and livestock to coexist.

Wild Horse & Burro Advocate Hits Back at Bogus BLM Numbers and Bad Math

“In response to a recent Elko Daily Free Press article, which was biased and riddled with BLM BS and propaganda, a wild horse & burro advocate comments in an attempt to set the record straight.  Said comment is worthy of being repeated…many times over!” ~ R.T.


COMMENT:

BLM's war on America's wild horses and burros at Antelope Valley, 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM’s war on America’s wild horses and burros at Antelope Valley, 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“Fraudulent Growth Rates: Three herds were featured on the Advisory Board’s tour — Antelope Valley, Goshute, and Spruce Pequop. A review of BLM’s alleged growth figures for those herds showed biologically-implausible increases. From a combined total of 1,440 wild horses in 2013, BLM claimed the herds grew to 3,025 wild horses by 2016, a 110% increase. That would mean a 37% average growth rate, which is 740% times the norm. Moreover, if given a 37% growth rate, then to overcome foal mortality (50%) and adult mortality (5%), the average birth rate would have to have been 84% — which is 420% times the norm. The advisory board members unknowingly “drank the Kool Aid” — they swallowed BLM’s propaganda. Truth be told, the range they toured had been degraded by livestock, which outnumber those few wild horses by a ratio of 100 to 1.

Allotments Not Necessarily Rested: Just because allotments are listed as officially rested from livestock-grazing does not mean they actually are. BLM lets ranchers self-report whether they run cattle or not, and then bills them accordingly. So, if grazing permit-holders don’t report use, BLM doesn’t bill them, and declares the allotments to be in “voluntary non-use.” Conditions are egregious in Nevada, where permittees have defied BLM’s authority to rest allotments from grazing. Ranchers went ahead and put cattle out on the range anyway, despite the drought, and then tried to get the local BLM Field Manager fired. But instead of penalizing the scofflaws, BLM administrators pandered to them, waiving fines and allowing the illegal grazing to continue. Even when BLM tried to enforce the rules, politics blocked those efforts. For instance, a particularly-rebellious permittee openly grazed his cattle beyond the authorized season, running up nearly $30,000 in fines for repeated and ongoing willful trespass. But one of his US Senators asked BLM’s Director to reduce the charge to simple trespass — which he did — and to lower the fine — which he also did — to $6,000.

Wild horses are underpopulated: Per BLM’s own geneticist, 83% of wild-horse herds suffer from arbitrary management levels (AMLs) set below minimum-viable population. For instance, the AML for Oregon’s Beaty’s Butte herd restricts the stocking-density to 1 wild horse per 7 square miles. Imposing such a low density is absurd, but it is done for a purpose. Because by inflating the numbers to make it seem as if there are 2 wild horses per 7 square miles, then BLM can technically declare an “overpopulation” and cite the herd for being at “double the number” that the preposterous AML allows. Please note that, in contrast, BLM authorizes 119 cattle per 7 square miles. After eliminating 99% of the Beaty’s Butte herd, BLM replaced the wild horses with cattle to accommodate a rancher, who had secured a contract to supply grass-fed beef to an upscale grocery chain.

Wild burros are also underpopulated: Again, per BLM’s own geneticist, 90% of wild burro herds suffer from AMLs set below minimum-viable population. For instance, the AML for Arizona’s Black Mountain herd restricts the stocking-density to 1 burro per 4 square miles. The idea that 1 little burro would need 4 square miles of range is just silly, particularly because BLM authorizes 68 cattle per 4 square miles. But, as with the wild horses, by exaggerating the figures to make it seem as if there are 2 burros per 4 square miles, then BLM can call the herd “overpopulated” and point to their being at “twice the AML.”

Save Money, Save Lives: The Wild Horse and Burro Program, if run correctly — that is, per the minimum-feasible management-model specified by Law — would be cost-effective. BLM does not lack for resources. There are 22 million acres of legally-designated herd areas — which BLM previously took away for administrative convenience and political expediency. That land can and should be reopened as habitat. The wild horses and burros now held captive can then be released to those areas, where the cost of their upkeep will be $0.” ~ Mary Beth Delvin

Feel Good Sunday II: Fixing With Feed – How to Choose the Correct Feed for Your Horse

Submitted by Nancy Parker

When choosing feed for your horse, there are plenty of things you need to keep in mind, from the horse’s age and activity level to any health problems that are currently plaguing the animal. And that is why the Animal Health Company decided to come out with this brand new infographic that takes a close look at what is considered to be the ideal diet for most horses, sometop feeds that can help prevent diseases in horses, some common but essential rules of horse feeding, and of course, how to assess how much of feed your horse needs.” ~ Nancy


fixing_with_feed_2_

Feel Good Sunday: Band of Rebels ~ White Horses of Camargue

Video Provided By:  Drew Doggett as published on the Total Horse Channel

Click Image to View Video

Click Image to View Video

Presenting sweeping panoramas of the horses galloping through the Camargue marshlands of Southern France, this video explores the relationship of the guardian caretakers and the horses. Dating back to the 1500s, the guardian’s role is a time-honored tradition based on mutual, earned trust and respect enabled by their history living among these wild animals.  The original score is composed by Christopher Ward, a multi-platinum and Oscar and Grammy-winning producer, arranger, and composer.

10 Things You Should Know about Wild Horses & Burros AND the Bureau of Land Management

by Alicia Bayer as published on the Inquisitor

“Why stop at 10, there is so much, much more love to share about the BLM and their gross mismanagement of our wild horses and burros, so much more.!   We are not on board with 100% of what is written here but there are several poignant points worth noting.” ~ R.T.


“…the agency sold 1,794 wild horses for $10 each to a Colorado rancher who sent them to slaughter”

There has been a lot of frenzy about the news that the Bureau of Land Management’s advisory board voted to recommend euthanizing 45,000 wild horses. Rumors and contradictions have been flying since the announcement. Here are 10 things you should know about the issue.

1. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) itself did not vote to euthanize the horses. Its advisory board, the Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, made the controversial decision. As the Inquisitr reported Wednesday, this board voted to recommend euthanizing the horses. At that time, the BLM had not commented on whether it would take their advice.

2. The BLM has now said that they will not euthanize the horses. WTTW reports that the bureau usually takes several months to respond to their advisory board’s recommendations, but they reacted quickly this time in response to the public uproar.

“The BLM will not euthanize or sell without limitation any healthy animals,” BLM spokesman Jason Lutterman told the press. “We’re going to continue caring for and seeking good homes for the un-adopted animals in our off-range corrals and pastures.”

3. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act (Public Law 92-195) put the Bureau of Land Management in charge of ensuring “the protection, management, and control of wild free- roaming horses and burros on public lands.”

“That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene.”

The act further says that they must 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.”

4. According to the act, wild horses may be removed if they are old, sick, or lame and destroyed in the most humane manner possible. Capture of excess wild horses is allowed under the act, provided there are suitable adoptions for them where they can be provided with adequate care. No more than four wild horses are to be adopted by any one individual in a year unless the person can prove that he or she can properly care for more. The act further says that if there are excess wild horses that cannot be adopted, they should “be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”

5. The BLM has been in trouble for their treatment of wild horses in the past. The Washington Times reported in 2015 that the agency sold 1,794 wild horses for $10 each to a Colorado rancher who sent them to slaughter. An investigation revealed that the bureau did not follow their own rules to protect the wild horses, including limiting the number sold to each individual and ensuring that they were going to good homes and not to slaughter. (MORE)

Federal report: Colorado wild horse buyer sold mustangs for slaughter

Reports are also rampant of abuse of the horses during roundups and in their holding facilities. The Humane Society reports that they have witnessed abuses such as a BLM contractor who appeared to hogtie and leave a lost foal in the path of stampeding mustangs, for instance. The BLM publicly admitted to some abuses on its own website, such as using electrical prods on horses. There are also many concerns about the use of helicopters to round up wild horses and burros and the fact that long runs often permanently separate foals from their mothers.

6. Wild horses are allegedly not native to the United States, but neither are cattle. Proponents of euthanizing the horses are quick to point out that wild horses were brought to the United States by the Spanish in the 16th century and are not native to America. However, the lands where wild horses are being removed are often being used for grazing cattle, which are not native either.

Nature World News reports that the species that’s currently the most damaging to our ecosystems is cattle and that 41 percent of all land in the United States is now grazed by livestock.

“Livestock are one of the main drivers of ecological degradation globally, and the crisis is only becoming worse. Grazing has a place in just about every agricultural system, but introducing large numbers of grass-munching cattle into areas where cows were not previously found is rapidly wreaking havoc on native ecosystems – so much so that the practice can now be characterized as an ‘invasive species.’”

One Green Planet reports that cattle now outnumber wild horses 50 to one.

7. Fracking and other forms of Big Energy are also driving forces behind the removal of wild horses and the loss of resources that all wild animals depend on.

“It is very clear that the energy frontier has a significant impact on wild herds, as well as all other interests on western public land,” says Wild Horse Education.

They point out that energy projects are given special status and are exempt from many regulations on public land, and that processing like fracking require massive amounts of water in areas that are plagued with drought as it is.

8. Wild horses have been used to rehabilitate prison inmates since 1986 through the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP). The program, which began in Colorado, now runs in five states. WHIP matches up wild horses and burros with inmates to receive “personal and extensive training as part of an inmate rehabilitative program.”

9. Some of these trained horses now work for the border patrol. The BLM sells some of the trained horses to work the Canadian and Mexican borders.

“All of our mustangs can move up a trail at a good pace. ATV’s can’t get up there. Trucks can’t get up there.” said U.S. Border Patrol ranger Bobby Traweek on the BLM website.

The bureau also points out that not only are the horses excellent at working the rough terrain and handling dangerous situations, but they cost the Border Patrol half of what they’re used to paying for trained horses.

10. Wild horses and burros are available for adoption, starting at only $125 each.

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