Wild horses capture the American public’s imagination like no other animal. The image of magnificent mustangs running wild on the vast Western range embodies the best of America and our independent and free spirit.
America’s wild horses and burros are protected by an act of Congress as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” that “contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.”
Today, federally protected wild horses and burros can be found on public land in ten Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The future of these iconic animals is in peril.
The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act protects wild horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment, or death,” but the agency charged with enforcing it has turned this law on its head. Each year, the Interior Department Bureau of Land Management (BLM) uses low flying helicopters to brutally round up and remove wild horses and burros by the thousands from Western public lands.
Why is this happening?
Wild horses occupy just a small fraction (12 percent) of BLM-managed lands, but ranchers who influence BLM policy view wild horses as competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing on public lands. They want to eradicate mustangs and burros, and the BLM has been only too happy to comply, even though public lands ranchers produce less than 3 percent of the nation’s beef supply.
What happens to the captured mustangs and burros?
The wild horses and burros who survive roundups and can’t be adopted or auctioned off are sentenced to a lifetime of being warehoused in government holding facilities, or worse, end up in the slaughter pipeline.
In 2015, the BLM stockpiles nearly 45,000 wild horses and burros in government holding facilities and approximately 67,000 wild horses and burros remain free on the range.
A better way.
The federal government’s brutal and inhumane roundup practices are optional. We have a choice to continue to spend millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to have terrorize wild horses and burros with helicopters, stampede them into pens and confine them for life or worse, kill or slaughter them, or we can manage them in the wild using humane, effective and cheaper alternatives like birth control.
Each and every wild horse that falls victim to this federal program is a lost icon of the freedom and untamed beauty that make this country great. Americans must demand an end to these practices before it’s too late.