Last Friday, the Bureau of Land Management‘s (BLM) National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board made the decision to use euthanasia to kill 45,000 wild horses currently captive in government holding facilities throughout the US. The decision has come under great scrutiny by organizations who argue for using birth control to minimize population growth, instead.
Over the last 20 years, the BLM has been rounding up and removing wild horses from their natural habitat in the interest of allowing privately owned cattle to graze on the land. What they have experienced since then is the unsustainable financial burden of keeping the horses alive in their facilities – $49 million in 2015, alone – and the task of coming up with an alternative solution.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released a statement condemning the decision, expressing, “The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care. The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mis-management. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years.”
In June, a meeting for the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands heard from California Congressman Tom McClintock (R), who argued that wild horses are overpopulated. Ginger Kathrens, director of The Cloud Foundation, explained, “Current management practices of round-up, removal and warehousing … cause compensatory reproduction – an increase in populations as a result of decreased competition for forage.” In other words, there would not be a surge in wild horses if the BLM hadn’t removed most of them from their land, in the first place.
The HSUS is calling for alternative fertility control programs to slow down population growth. According to Ms. Kathrens, “Livestock outnumber horses and burros 47 to 1, and livestock are allocated 82 percent of the forage,” suggesting the real problem lies with the decision to use the land for raising cattle and calling into question the need for continuing the practice.
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