My Wild Horse Education…
Not what I thought it would be
By Laura Leigh
Horses in our country exist in a very bizarre area of lack of “definition.” This grey area is unlike any other animal in our country.
Domestic horses walk a line between pet and livestock. They exist within a murky lack of designation that creates gaps in the process of passing legislation to protect the welfare of our workmates and companions. This lack of designation for domestics leave horses no true nationwide process of law that govern pets, such as dogs and cats, and no designation as true livestock with protocol for care and feeding. Animals NOT raised as livestock are open to export for slaughter as a consumable product that clearly has not been regulated as such. But because of any true lack of protocol efforts to halt this emotionally charged process are difficult to bring to fruition. They get bogged down in committee and debate. The debates are filled with circular logic, special interests, and a lack of clear statistical data. We continue to export an agricultural product that is unregulated, inhumane, and unsafe. Not to mention has “my little pony” crammed in a double-decker cattle truck off to be stabbed to death in Mexico.
That clear lack of definition and the consequences are magnified when we begin to look at the wild horses of America.
Most people think of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) when we think “wild horse.” But not all horses fall under the BLM. Many wild horses fall into categories regulated by state run branches of Fish and Game and other organizations. So if we can’t pass any clear legislation on domestics, imagine the nightmare of getting any policy in place to collectively protect America’s wild herds.
This clear lack of designation is so far reaching. This is the closest thing I can find to a comprehensive list of Wild Horses and the agencies that manage them.
Recently HR 1018 passed the house.
Animal Welfare institute update:
Feels like a victory… but is it? This legislation will now need to go before the Senate and into committee. This will all need to be done during very specific timelines. If it is not passed within those timelines… it’s back to square one.
This legislation attempts to repair much of the damage done to the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
Conrad Burns effectively gutted this legislation
This is Conrad Burns. No surprise.
Burns is responsible for creating a lot of economic issues in our corn-based economy. But right now I’m going to focus on horses.
I will add updates as I find out the timeline on the Senate actions.
What a Mess.
As I began to look at the issues surrounding wild horses I came across some very interesting people involved with the care of these magnificent beings. As I looked closer I began to see the overwhelming obstacles they faced.
Let’s go back to the definition issue. With wild horses you have federal property and state property. You have BLM land leased to special interests that was designated for wild populations. You have state construction companies building homes, cattle ranchers, resource disputes and an outrageous lack of protocol and regulation. Contracts and permits are issued without impartial data on even the simple issue of head counts. Is this a “feral” or wild classification? If this animal is classified as wild, or even “feral,” then you would think the same regulations that apply to other wildlife, or species that interact with wildlife, would be found somewhere in this mix. If it exists, I can’t find it. Any wildlife study and management plan I have ever seen is clearly and meticulously documented. Not so here. And if this country were allowing the shipment of any other species that exists in the wild for slaughter for foreigners to eat… you’d see it on Nightline, Today and Oprah.
A Look at Nevada
I began to follow some of the issues in Nevada and took a trip to see things with my own eyes.
I saw the BLM facility, Palomino Valley. They were in the process of clearing the facility to clean it and prepare for the next round of gathers that will start in August. The BLM claims to be broke. It claims to have no money to support the horses it currently has in holding, 33,000. The BLM plans to kill these horses.
But is preparing to do another round of gathers. Gathers it claims it must do because of over-population. Data that has been collected in a disputable fashion that does not follow any protocol used to define other wild populations.
The BLM claims that it does not gather during “foaling season.”
I took photographs at the Palomino Valley BLM facility on 7/21/09. These horses were from the last gather. I saw only mares and foals. These foals were newly born and nursing. It doesn’t take a PHD, or a three-year government funded study, to see that any gather that takes place in August will kill foals and create extraordinary stress to a herd.
I have tried to find any study that resembles an extensive environmental impact, from an impartial source. If it exists, I can’t find it. The removal of large numbers of any animal from the wild should be monitored closely as the animal’s health is a direct reflection of environment. The animals I saw appeared of good weight. These animals did not come from an environment that can’t sustain them. Again no PHD needed.
However, I did see some issues at the facility that as a horse owner cause alarm.
Extreme heat, no shelter and only alfalfa as feed. The horses I saw in the wild had opportunity to find shade. They appeared to eat food that would be much lower in carbs than hay such as alfalfa. It would make much more sense to feed these animals hay such as grass or timothy. Alfalfa could cause severe consequence to the long-term health of these animals and a diet too rich can create behavior issues much like putting chocolate cake in a toddler. But I know it is cheaper… and from all the info I have, long-term health is not a concern for the BLM. Again I have no PHD so why listen to me.
On July 22 there was a protest that took place in Carson City, Nevada. The protest is focused on a small group of horses falling through the cracks and into a power struggle with the local government agencies in Nevada. The protesters were asking that the State’s Attorney General perform an official investigation.
Youtube corruption in Nevada state government:
WWER and the fertility study swindle
Here is the link to read about a piece of this issue in detail.
These horses crossed state lines. As an outsider I am unclear why this issue is being brought to the state of Nevada at all. This appears to be a federal issue. And in the meantime a small rescue operation is trying to care for mares used in a fertility study they can’t even get specified medical records on!
If you read the comments and articles in a local paper after the protest it really does appear as if the state has a personal beef with certain individuals that have questioned their practices and it extends into the community.
The AP picked up the story but appears to not question the “sound bite” answer given by local authority. No research or information is given except the “he said, she said.” Sad… http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_12892866
There were news camera crews present and lots of reporters. But I can’t find a single link.
Not a single piece that covers both sides in any depth.
This is one small piece of the nightmare created by a lack of accountability through a national non-designation and standard for protocol of herd management. Current legislation needs to be written to create an umbrella that sets a standard for accountability and gives authority to manage resources that provide for the health of that environment. Clear data to support the decision making process must be gathered in a consistent fashion.
Here is an article showing the convoluted justification process that remains unchallenged in any true process of a hearing of data. The agency (BLM) doing the decisions creates the data internally. To a simple mind like mine that’s like allowing the tobacco industry to do long-term health studies on cigarettes and go unchallenged.
Until such a designation and standard of accountability is created we will continue to see examples of political maneuvering to create profitable circumstances for a select few that hold contracts within each state. We will see laws written and abused to exploit a symbol of the American spirit. We will go about our days as these horses… our wild American icons… join our domestic horses in the pipeline, shipped over our borders, then brutally slaughtered and sent overseas to be eaten by foreign fine diners.
More links of Interest:
What you can do:
Become educated on the issue. Look at all sides. Challenge statements made that resemble facts… ask for hard data.
Call your local representatives and just say, “I care about what happens to OUR horses.”
Contact Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar email@example.com or 202-208-7351 and ask that the BLM please refrain from taking premature action that may jeopardize this resource to the point of no return, at a time when we so desperately need this symbol of the American Spirit.
Laura Leigh is an artist and horse owner living in the PNW.