Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where Have All The Horses Gone?

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Guest OpEd by “Calamity” Cate Crismani of TrueCowboy Magazine
“Fiscal Year 2012, out of 10,350 wild horses and burros gathered, a total of 80 animals, or approximately three-quarters of one percent (0.77 percent), died or were euthanized during gather operations”
BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BLM Antelope attack in 2011 ~ photo byTerry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Did you know that in the last forty years 50% of the world’s wild species has been decimated? Wiped off the planet. Never to be seen again except in books or on the internet. In one word, extinct. It is a fact. Another fact, the decimation is still going on now taking its toll on the wild horses and burros roaming freely on the ranges in ten states in the U.S.A. by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Department of Interior (DOI). These are the very same government departments that are supposed to manage thepublic lands for diversity and multiple use. The public lands. The very departments tasked with protecting and preserving the wild horses and burros and their freedom to exist on public lands unharassed according to The Wild Horse Annie Act of 1959 (TWHA Act) and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971(WFRH&B Act) The latter was signed into law by Richard M. Nixon, our president at that time.
Both the Wild Horse Annie Act and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act were put in place to stop aggressive and inhumane roundups of these wild animals while granting them the legal right to live freely, unharassed, on public lands. So what went wrong? The BLM produced its own video to justify these brutal roundups. According to the video, in the fifties they employed small planes. TWHA Act of 1959 effectively banned the use of small planes to conduct the roundups. A few short years later, and currently, helicopters are being used, replacing small planes, to continue the roundups. These helicopters are owned by private individuals, contracted by the BLM at exorbitant rates, paid for by the taxpayers, you and me. Statistics reveal there are more wild horses and burros in short-term holding pens than exist freely in the wild. These captured horses are being sustained by the almighty tax dollar as well which amounts to millions every year.
To add insult to injury, the WFRH&B 1971 Act was amended in the eleventh hour by Senator Burns who slipped an omnibus clause into it without public input, knowledge or approval. This clause stated that captured wild horses and burros could be sold “without restriction”. Those two words changed the intention and purpose of the WFRH&B Act and opened the door for “kill buyers” to purchase the once free roaming wild horses and burros for slaughter and human consumption overseas. Yup, people in parts of Europe and Asia eat horse meat. Although there are no horse slaughter houses in the U.S.A., yet,   the kill buyers figured out a way around that one. They simply pack the horses and burros like sardines into huge trucks, with poor or no ventilation, and drive them across the borders of Mexico and Canada to slaughter for profit and human consumption overseas.
Per the BLM’s own website, in “Fiscal Year 2012, out of 10,350 wild horses and burros gathered, a total of 80 animals, or approximately three-quarters of one percent (0.77 percent), died or were euthanized during gather operations; of those 80, 22 animals, or about one-fifth of one percent (0.21 percent) of the gathered animals, died or were euthanized because of acute injuries. Acute injury deaths include all animals that died or were euthanized because of acute injuries, such as spinal cord or head injuries, fractured limbs, or other severe injuries that occurred during gathers. Total deaths include all animals that died or were euthanized for any reason during gathers, including acute or sudden injuries or illnesses, as well as chronic or pre-existing conditions that required euthanasia (such as limb deformities, lameness, and poor body condition)”.
These are stale-dated statistics from 2012. Although the 2015 roundup schedule is posted on the BLM website, current mortality rates are not for the years between 2012 to present time.
Logically, and alternatively, none of these wild horses and burros would have had to die if they weren’t being harassed and chased at high speeds by helicopters. Young foals cannot keep up with the herd and snap their legs off, left to die on the range. Pregnant mares abort their unborn foals under this stress and duress. Wild horse advocates have witnessed these roundups first hand. They have photos and videos of helicopters clipping the horses as they run in fear, at unsustainable high speeds for miles over rugged terrain, while being pursued within inches by the helicopters. Further, and it’s a matter of record, advocates have been barred from viewing these roundups on public land. Public land. Begs the question, why?
you will hear the voice-over saying these wild horses are living on “millions of acres of public land”. Millions of acres. You will see healthy, beautiful herds of wild horses roaming freely on a landscape of “millions” of acres while the voice-over expounds on their beauty and value as historical treasures. Yet, at the same time, the BLM claims the wild horses and burros are overpopulating as they have no natural predators.
On that note, the wild ones’ natural predators are mountain lions, wolves and bears. Need I remind you, mountain lions, wolves and bears are “trophy” hunted yearly. Its called “hunting season” condoned by the BLM and DOI. Yet another travesty the BLM justifies by claiming these animals are overpopulating as well. A highly effective broad stroke by the BLM. But I digress. So, yes, the wild horses and burros natural predators have been dramatically reduced on millions of acres of public lands. These animals are only doing what nature intended them to do, survive.
Simply stated, the BLM has some clever public relations people on board.
The BLM bases the removal of the wild horses and burros on what they have named “Herd Management Areas” (HMA) and “Appropriate Management Levels (AML). But who is determining those numbers? The BLM and the DOI. That’s like having the cat babysit the canary. I think we all know how that will turn out.
Horses have existed on this planet for millions of years. Well before humans. Their equine ancestors, according to fossils found in North America and around the world, were much smaller with tri-cloven hooves. As a matter of survival, they evolved into the modern-day horse of which we are all familiar. Strong, big, sentient, hoofed animals able to carry double their own weight on their backs. Prehistoric man and horses have coexisted for millions of years. Horses and burros were domesticated to serve mankind for centuries. We have employed them in our wars, to build our railroads, as transportation to move us from the east to the west to settle new frontiers. A person could be hung for stealing horses in the 18th and 19th centuries. And, yes, we have eaten them in times of famine and war. Today horses are used for sport, pleasure and companionship. Cars have “horsepower” and trains, during the Industrial Revolution, were called “Iron Horses”.
Wild horses and burros travel up to forty miles a day natively for survival. They stay in one spot for a very short time. As prey animals, it’s inherently in their best survival interest to roam. Their roaming nature contributes to our eco-system. Their droppings carry seeds they have ingested to new areas miles away where these seeds then grow into plants and foliage. Horses only eat the tips of the grass never pulling up the roots. In contrast, cattle stand all day in one spot eating the grass right down to the dirt, roots and all, leaving nothing but barren land.
So what is really going on? Follow the money. Cattle ranching, fraking, urban development, mineral and metal exploitation, hunting and corporate greed have all taken their toll on the wild horses and burros on public land. Frankly, on all of nature and its inhabitants, including humans. The wild horse and burro advocates are up against strong opposition and pro-lobbying groups for the NRA, the cattle and meat industry, corporate oil drilling and natural gas fraking, which, I might add, uses millions of gallons of water to keep the boring drills cooled off, along with uranium mining to produce plutonium. You do know that plutonium is a radioactive metal, produced from uranium, and used to manufacture nuclear weapons? And that both plutonium and uranium are nuclear reactor fuels? And that both are extremely radioactive and deadly? All of these groups are very powerful and very well-heeled.
The wild horse advocates have no lobbying group and very little financial strength to hire one. Most spend and donate out of their own pockets to support the waning, but needed, legislative changes. Meanwhile back at the ranch, our government continues to ignore and violate existing laws, in place for years, to protect the wild horses and burros to live freely and unharassed. Getting the picture now?
Wild horse and burro advocates are constantly on guard and on roundup sites in protest. Petitions run rampant on and other petition sites demanding an end to these inhumane roundups. But the roundups continue ad nauseum.
Yet, wild horses are considered American Icons, even by the BLM. Much like the American Bald Eagle who came very close to extinction. It is, and has been for years, a felony to kill one bald eagle.
Against all odds, the wild horse and burro advocates continue to fight the good fight. These dauntless folks are the only voice for the protection and preservation of these majestic animals to live freely and unharassed. So they press on with the belief that the price of freedom is constant alertness and the willingness to fight back. Most times in doing so, tragically, lives are lost; the lives of the mighty wild horses and burros.
And their freedom, along with ours, is lost with it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Submitted by Grandma Gregg ~ words by Edward Abbey
“‘Feel Good Sunday’ and it is time for us to ‘feel good’ about ourselves and what we do; so Grandma Gregg’s submittable for today strikes home in more ways than one.  Take a deep breath, please, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.” ~ R.T.

A recently traumatized wild horse reaching out to R.T. Fitch at BLM's Palomino Valley holding facility ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
A recently traumatized wild horse reaching out to R.T. Fitch at BLM’s Palomino Valley holding facility ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
“Devoted though we must be to the conservation cause, I do not believe that any of us should give it all of our time or effort or heart. Give what you can, but do not burn yourselves out — or break your hearts. Let us save at least half of our lives for the enjoyment of this wonderful world which still exists. Leave your dens, abandon your cars and walk out into the great mountains, the deserts, the forests, the seashores. Those treasures still belong to all of us. Enjoy them to the full, stretch your legs, expand your lungs, enliven your hearts — and we will outlive the greedy swine who want to destroy it all in the name of what they call GROWTH.
God bless America — let’s save some of it.
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet!” 
― Edward Abbey

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Public comment sought on Pryor wild horse population control programs

Straight from the Horse;s Heart

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BILLINGS – The Bureau of Land Management Billings Field Office is beginning a public comment period on an environmental assessment which analyzes the continued use of fertility control on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, the agency said in a press release Tuesday.
The agency is accepting public comment and is requesting any information, data or analysis pertinent to the environmental analysis for 30 days beginning Jan. 20, 2015. The environmental assessment is available for review by visiting the field office website at
Fertility control has been used to control the wild horse population since 2001. The current fertility control program began in 2011 and expires this year. A new proposal, based on the results from existing and previous treatments, is being developed.
“The Billings Field Office is excited to be on the cusp of nearly eliminating the need for wild horse removals due to the use of fertility control administered in the field,” said Billings Field Manager Jim Sparks.
The environmental assessment looks at two alternatives. The proposed action was developed based on results from the 2011-2015 fertility control using a vaccine. It is composed of a specific treatment prescription along with allowing for other management steps depending on changes in the wild horse herd.
The no action alternative is the continuation of existing fertility control treatment.
Comments can be emailed to by Feb. 18, 2015. Written comments may be mailed or hand delivered to James M. Sparks, Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101.
The BLM will issue a final decision at a later date.
The agency warned that including your address, phone number, email address or other personal identifying information in your comment to be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask the agency in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, it cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
If you have questions or would like to request a hard copy of the EA, please contact Jared Bybee at the Billings Field Office at (406) 896.5223.

Monday, January 19, 2015

BLM selling wild horses & burros like used cars

Straight from the Horse's Heart

imageprint (2)
A mare/foal pair in the sale program because they were offered 3 times on the Internet adoption

by Grandma Gregg
Remember when we saw how the BLM was posting lots and lots of wild burros online in order to get them 3-strikes fast so they could sell them to Guatemala?   Recently, and now, the BLM is running our wild horses (and burros!) through the same way – like used cars – and are advertising them for sale on the internet.  (A few links and pics attached, but there are many more online – see the links – and a “new” internet adoption is starting in a few days.)
The BLM is doing this because they can’t use Tom Davis to dispose of horses anymore – so they’re now advertising them to get rid of them as fast as they can, and as I know from personal experience … all the buyer has to do is sign a paper that says they won’t send them to slaughter.  BUT the BLM will NEVER check on them and the buyer can then sell them that same day to another person and bye bye … off to slaughter.
Nobody EVER, EVER, EVER, checked on my wild horse, ACE, and I could have sold him that same day to a kill buyer.
The internet “adoption” has become a bargain “fire sale” clearance rack for our wild ones.  The BLM has to make space for the horses they’ll be rounding up in upcoming roundups.
?????????? in the sale program because he was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
Sex: Gelded Jack Age: 4 Years   Height (in hands): 12.2Necktag #: 4325   Date Captured: 11/01/10Color: Gray Captured: Born in a Holding Facility
#4325 – (Freezemark 10184325)
4 yr old Gray Gelded Jack. Born Nov 1, 2010 at CAF56 Ridgecrest Regional Wild Horse & Burro Corrals.
This Gelded Jack is in the sale program because he was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption. If you are interested in purchasing FM 10184325 please contact Palomino Valley at (775) 475-2222 for the paper work.
Pickup location Palomino Valley Wild Horse & Burro Center Reno, NV
imageprint in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
Sex: Jenny Age: 3 Years   Height (in hands): 12.2Necktag #: 4584   Date Captured: 10/01/11Color: Brown   Captured: Outside an HMA
#4584 – (Freezemark 11184584) 3 yr old Brown Jenny. Gathered October 1, 2011 from Outside Herd Area in California.
This Jenny is in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption. If you are interested in purchasing Freezemark 11184584 please contact Palomino Valley at (775) 475-2222 for the paper work.
Pickup location Palomino Valley Wild Horse & Burro Center Reno, NV
?????????? in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
?????????? in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
imageprint in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
imageprint in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
imageprint (1) in the sale program because she was offered 3 times on the Internet adoption
and many more…

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Destruction of Our Wild Burro Herds Accelerates

Straight from the Horse's Heart

After being chased by a helicopter and roped and kicked by this wrangler who is paid with our tax money, this wild burro is then further abused by being pulled by the ears.  Photo by Carl Mrozek
After being chased by a helicopter and roped and kicked by this wrangler who is paid with our tax money, this wild burro is then further abused by being pulled by the ears.
Photo by Carl Mrozek

What will be the fate of our captured Wild Horses and Burros?  With the past evidence of our wild horses and burros “disappearing” under the supposed “protection” of BLM and with the past BLM record of roundup brutality … I am afraid to even think about it … but it is happening NOW … and the few Wild Burro Herds that remain on American soil will disappear forever unless the unwarranted roundups and removals are stopped.
In March of 1981, 648 American wild burros were secretly shot and killed under direction of the U.S. Navy at California’s China Lake Naval Weapons Center.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund – stepped in after they heard about the 1981 mass murder and were able to save some burros.  Then in 2011 China Lake NWC captured and removed more burros and the “word” was that they are doing it because the burros had  been seen eating the LAWN of the office!  Now, it appears that ALL burros from both the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and the nearby Centennial Herd Management Area (not managed for burros) will be captured and removed in the immediately. $148,245 has already been allocated to Cattoor Livestock Inc. for the roundup, which is due to start on January 16 and continue through January 20.
CNN aired this shocking video of a BLM contractor knocking over a wild burro with the helicopter skids.  The footage was captured by film maker Carl Mrozek. Here is an example of how BLM “plays the game” (i.e. BLM’s deception to the public):
BLM states on their 2015 winter gather schedule that 20 burros will be captured from NE California’s Twin Peaks HMA but the actual legal (cx) document clearly states they plan to capture and remove from 90-110 of our wild burros!  This is another example of BLM’s deception to the public regarding what they say to us (the public) versus what they REALLY plan on doing.
At the 2013 BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting, Dr. Lori Eggert, University of Missouri, said that genetic diversity of burro populations are well below what you would see in healthy populations and that 12 burro HMAs have populations between 2 and 49 animals.  Those herds are far below the population numbers for genetically healthy herds.
According to a 2007 Wild Horse & Burro Capture Status Report obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by American Horse Defense Fund, 12% of the burros rounded up in March of 2007 were dead within six months of the gather.  That’s a far cry from the 1-2% BLM is so fond of sharing with the public.
The following account from an article in AMERICAN HERDS reveals a chilling insight into what happens behind the scenes, away from public scrutiny:
“An eyewitness exposed how yet another lone burro was run for miles via helicopter until it collapsed.  If this weren’t enough, contractors then proceeded to jump up and down on the helpless burros rib cage and belly, grabbed its ears and repeatedly slammed its head into the ground until, finally satisfied, walked away to leave the burro to die a long and agonizing death.”
America’s Federally Protected Wild Horses and Burros deserve better than this!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A New Year Message from John Holland

Equine Welfare Alliance (PDF)

Dear EWA member,

I like to take this opportunity each year to let you know what we think we can expect in the New Year. First, there is no doubt that 2014 was the year of the horse and there is a very real potential for 2015 to mark the end of the slaughter of US horses! The two big developments were, as you know, the inspections defunding and the EU ban on Mexican horse meat derived largely from US horses.
Inspections defunding

Last year at this time, we were facing the threat of up to four horse slaughter houses opening in the US, but I told you that it was not going to happen. I knew that to be true because Victoria McCullough and Joseph Abruzzo had kept us informed for months on the progress of the spending bill, but for obvious reasons we could not disclose anything until it was a done deal. We also told you that defunding would last through at least the 2015 budget, which it has.
An apology

In last year's message, I also said that I thought Blair Dunn (attorney for Valley Meats) knew that his client's dream of opening a horse slaughter house in New Mexico was fading fast and that some of the strange statements he had made in the press were merely posturing to position his client to sue for damages over being delayed.

Shortly thereafter Mr. Dunn sent me an email threatening to sue me for liable over that statement. I now realize that I was mistaken, and that Mr. Dunn was neither as knowledgeable nor as clever as I had assumed him to be and that my speculation that his posturing was a result of either quality was totally unfounded. I wish to take this opportunity to apologize for that error.

If there are any doubts that D'Allende Meats, the latest incarnation of Valley Meats, is destined to meet a similar fate, consider this. Even if inspections funding was to be restored, and even if they got a discharge permit, and even if the USDA gave them a grant of inspection (all unlikely in the near future), the USDA itself is not certified to inspect for the EU and they would have very limited market opportunities. Worse, the EU is now aware that the US has no system of traceability on drugs administered to horses and their ban on Mexican horse meat was as much about US horses as it was about Mexican slaughter.

The EU ban on Mexican horse meat

Finally, the EU has listened and taken action banning the import of US horse meat from Mexico, albeit a decade after first being contacted about serious food safety and humane issues.

While inspections funding and the lack of discharge permits kept the US plants from opening, the announcement from the EU that they would not accept horse meat from Mexico after 1/15/2015 has several impacts. It should drive down Mexican slaughter of our horses, and it is a fantastic card to play in the politics of Washington and elsewhere.

As we all know, Mexico has customers for its horse meat other than the EU. So we all wanted to know what percentage of their horse meat goes to non-EU countries. We are very fortunate to have great researchers who prefer to avoid the limelight. One obtained records of all horse meat sent by ship, and just recently the other was able to navigate the labyrinthine web sites of the Mexican government and obtain the totals for sea and air exports.

We found that only about 22% of their total recent exports have been going to non-EU countries. The largest is Russia with about 13.2% (When we had only the seaborne trade numbers, this number looked like about 6.6%). Interestingly, the next largest customer is Vietnam with 6.2%. This was a surprise and is almost identical to the percentage that France had been importing. Switzerland is next with about 5.3%.

There has been a lot of speculation about China, but they accounted for less than 1%, though Hong Kong was taking about 4%.

We expect that Mexico will be forced to drop its prices to attract more customers if they hope to make up their shortfall. We have found that Canadian plants like Natural Valley lost money for several years before throwing in the towel, so it may take a while to know what their new business model will look like. Meanwhile, we will track the exports and find ways to warn the remaining foreign consumers of what the EU/FVO found in their audits.

The next shoe to drop will be Canada. There is speculation that horse meat from Canada may also be banned, though there is a possibility that they will impose astrict 6 month quarantine. Quarantine would, however, not bring Canada up to the standards the EU places on its member country suppliers since some drugs (e.g. phenylbutazone) are banned from ever being given to a food animal. All of these measures will at the very least make the business much less profitable, and if anything less than a ban is imposed, we must expect the cheating that has been the rule with the EIDs (Equine Identification Documents) to continue.

Is the horse slaughter battle over?

No, we cannot assume that it is over, but with the strategic use of a powerful public relations firm to get the facts and the EU's decision into the media,this may well be the beginning of the end. Now is the best possible time for slaughter to end as I explained in my recent article in New Zealand Horse Talk magazine.

We will be watching the number of horses going to Mexico closely, as well as Mexico's exports of horse meat. We must also continue to work toward a federal law to remove equines from the food chain forever.
What can we expect from the pro-slaughter side?

We think that we can expect the pro-slaughter folks to go back to their play book of spreading stories about how the sky is falling without horse slaughter. When the US plants were closed in 2007, they started a campaign to publicize stories of abandonment and neglect.

In 2007 advocates undertook a major research project, fact checking every story in every state and found every article was either a complete fabrication or a mammoth distortion. We published a document called "Deleting the Fiction" (see also the full report) in which we documented what we found and the sources we used. I have to say, the Associated Press was the worst offender. Then as now, they seem totally unwilling to review or retract stories even when they are proven to be completely false. This tells us that we need to have powerful help with our media operations.

Most shockingly, the slaughter supporters even managed to get a deliberately distorted report out of the GAO that misrepresented data out of Colorado to supposedly prove that abuse had gone up 60% after the plants closed. So it would be a mistake to underestimate their reach.

Interestingly, the entire strategy of claiming severe unintended consequences backfired because it deals with equine welfare, not food safety, the issue of most concern to the EU. Even so, it has been their strategy for so long that they will likely continue to use it. We should all watch for these stories and check them out. If they are false, we need to have our PR machine respond quickly to get the facts into major news outlets.

I can say that 2015 promises to be an exciting year, and we intend to work harder than ever. The successes of the past year were not the exclusive work of one group or another. They were the result of all of us all working together. Keep up the great work.

And sadly we must go forward without one of the most effective legislators ever to champion animal welfare, Jim Moran. We all owe him a debt of gratitude and wish him the best in his retirement.

In closing, let me paraphrase what Chris Hedges said about fascists. We don't fight horse slaughter because we think we will win. We fight horse slaughter because it is horse slaughter. In the end we will win this fight because we will accept no other outcome.

Happy New Year,

John Holland, President