Marking a reversal in policy and exaggerating the impact of wild horses on our federal lands in the West, a few western lawmakers succeeded in getting the House Appropriations Committee to accept an amendment that could allow the destruction of America’s wild horses. The committee adopted an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, whose effort weakens long-accepted bipartisan provisions that prevented the killing of healthy wild horses and burros.
This amendment countermands the language that has lived in the Interior spending bill for years to safeguard wild horses and to require humane management on and off the range.
“Last week, the House Appropriations Committee voted to use taxpayer dollars to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S.,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “This week, they’re on a tear to kill wild horses. Let’s hope the full House and the Senate remind them of Americans’ special relationship with horses as well as our ability to manage wild horses in humane, cost-effective ways.”
For the past 20 years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has relied on rounding up and removing horses from the range as the agency’s primary population management strategy. The National Academy of Sciences reported in 2013 that such removals cause an increase in population growth rates in the remaining horses on the range due to decreased competition for forage, and instead recommended that BLM increase its emphasis on fertility control.
The BLM has consistently failed to implement fertility control, despite pleas from the horse protection community. Last year, the agency treated less than 1 percent of the horses on the range with immunocontraception. HSUS has invested millions in the development and application of fertility control vaccines for wild horses.
The Stewart amendment would lift the long-term prohibition on the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros, creating a pathway for mass killing of animals currently in holding facilities and on the range.