The U.S. government is waging a war on America’s wild horses, and Friends of Animals (FOA) is getting increasingly aggressive in its efforts to stop it.
FOA asserts that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – the federal agency charged with protecting wild horses – is wiping them out on behalf of powerful ranchers who want the public land to graze their cattle. The government either sterilizes the horses with PZP or uses low-flying helicopters to chase them into fenced-in traps which bring them – and their freedom – to a screeching halt.
“The BLM is exterminating wild horses because cattle ranchers regard them as pests,” said Edita Birnkrant, Director of Campaigns for Friends of Animals. “But we’ve reach a tipping point. To save those who remain, we must disrupt business as usual.”
At a recent BLM meeting in Nevada, Ms. Birnkrant seized control of the microphone and announced that the “BLM is managing wild horses to extinction through roundups and PZP” and “pimping our land out to ranchers.” Within minutes, she and her colleague Nicole Rivard, who filmed the protest, were escorted out of the conference room and expelled from the hotel, in spite of the fact that they were paying guests.
The Nevada disruption was not FOA’s first act of civil disobedience. In September, 15 protesters with FOA occupied the BLM’s Wyoming office and temporarily blocked the entrance to a nearby holding pen for wild horses.
In an effort to protect the remaining horses, FOA isn’t just relying on provocative protests. In June 2014, the organization filed a petition it with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list North American wild horses as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. They expect an answer within the next five months.
The BLM vehemently denies allegations by horse advocates and claims that it works to “ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands.” But the “smaller print” on its website reveals the conflict of interest that FOA and other groups describe: “The BLM monitors rangeland conditions . . . to determine the number of animals, including livestock and wildlife, that the land can support.” Why does federal government allow privately-owned “livestock” on public land in the first place? Also, isn’t the BLM’s use of tax dollars to round up wild horses on behalf of cattle ranchers really just a meat subsidy covered in horse blood?
On it’s website, the BLM also states that it “gathers excess wild horses and burros from areas where vegetation and water could become scarce if too many animals use the area.” What it fails to mention, of course, is that private cattle who are brought onto the public land consume far more water and vegetation than the wild horses.
Before Ms. Birnkrant disrupted the BLM meeting in Nevada, she heard a cattle rancher tell a BLM representative that he “wants to open a horse butcher shop.” The two of them, she said, had a big laugh.
Please ask U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to list North American wild horses on public lands as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This designation represents their best hope for the survival. We can also help the horses by going vegan. If we put the cattle ranchers out of business, then they will no longer steal public land inhabited by the wild horses.