Sunday, December 5, 2010

Opposing views on three summer musters | - International horse news

Opposing views on three summer musters | - International horse news

December 6, 2010

A report by four equine specialists into three major wild horse musters over the northern summer has been released by the Bureau of Land Management.

A horse being rounded up by helicopter. © American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
It found that the horses did not exhibit signs of undue stress during the helicopter portion of the musters, showing more anxiety when finally closed into pens.

The four academia-based equine veterinarians or equine specialists who prepared the report were Camie Heleski, from Michigan State University; Betsy Greene, from the University of Vermont; Sarah Ralston, from Rutgers University; and Carolyn Stull, from the University of California at Davis.

The four were selected by the Washington DC-based American Horse Protection Association, whose mission is to protect and preserve wild horses and burros on US public rangelands.

Other findings by the four, who observed gathers at the Owyhee Herd Management Area (Nevada), Stinking Waters Herd Management Area (Oregon), and Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (California), were:

  • Contractor and BLM personnel appeared to be gentle and knowledgeable, using acceptable methods for moving horses forward at the trap sites and the temporary holding facilities.

  • Chutes and pens were set up in a manner that reflected recommended handling practices for reducing animal stress in traps.

  • Horses were sorted appropriately at temporary holding facilities.

  • Horses were assessed by federal veterinarians to be capable of travel before transport to BLM holding facilities.

  • Veterinarians were open and candid regarding protocols for treating injured or ill horses. In the case of euthanasia or injuries, there was no attempt to minimise or hide any information or details related to the injuries or euthanasia procedures.

  • When faced with unexpected and extraordinary circumstances (such as water toxaemia at the Owyhee gather), personnel demonstrated the ability to review, assess, and adapt procedures to ensure the care and wellbeing of the animals to the best of their ability.
The four made a number of recommendations to the BLM, which can be found in the full report.

BLM contractors attempt to drag the dying stallion Braveheart on to a trailer at the BLM's Silver King roundup. © AWHPC
However, the report has failed to satisfy the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition of 40 public interest, environmental and humane organisations.

It questioned the wild horse experience of the report writers and offered the view that it glossed over the humane issues.

Commenting on the role of the American Horse Protection Association, the AWHPC's campaign director, Suzanne Roy, said: "We find it highly objectionable and offensive that the agency is using one organisation as a voice for 'humane observation' when there are other organidations and individuals better qualified to address this issue."

It said it did not accept findings over the use of helicopters and that BLM staff and contractors "showed ability to review, assess and adapt procedures to ensure the care and well being of animals to the best of their ability".

Experts with wild horse experience had reached a different conclusion regarding BLM wild horse roundups, it said.

One of them, Dr Jay Kirkpatrick, director of science and conservation biology at ZooMontana, in Billings, Montana told National Geographic in 2009: "I'm not a bunny hugger, but I'll never attend another gather as long as I live. They're flat-out inhumane."

Kirkpatrick has spent more than 30 years studying wild horses and developing successful fertility control programs for the animals.

"In addition, the Internet is populated with video, photographs and eyewitness accounts of the trauma, injury and suffering wild horses are subjected to during the course of roundups and capture," it said.

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