A Sorry Spectacle on Capitol Hill

June 23, 2016

If we ever questioned what public lands ranchers and their political allies in Congress really have in mind for America’s wild horses and burros, the answer was abundantly clear yesterday’s House Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) wild horse and burro program.

Mass roundups, slaughter and sterilization of these “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” are on the horizon if the participants in yesterday’s absurdly stacked hearing have their way.

Seven members of Congress and three of four witnesses (including two ranchers and a representative of a pro-livestock range management organization) pushed the public lands ranching industry’s agenda to destroy and eliminate America’s wild horse and burro herds. Each made wildly exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims of overpopulation, mass starvation and horses overrunning the West to make the case for lifting the current Congressional prohibition on killing healthy wild horses and burros or selling them for slaughter.

Only one witness --  our friend Ginger Kathrens, Emmy award-winning filmmaker and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation – invited to be the voice of the and the American people and our cherished wild horses and burros.  Ginger articulately presented the facts and remained dignified amidst verbal attacks and bullying of subcommittee members, whose shocking lack of civility and respect to a private citizen was an insult to the dignity of the office they hold.

You can watch the whole sorry spectacle here.

Highlights include:

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) calling the appropriations rider that prohibits the slaughter of wild horses as “unnecessary,” and implying that mass euthanasia and/or slaughter equates to “humane” management

Nevada rancher and livestock vet JJ Goicoechea espousing his solution for managing wild horses:

·      round up 100 % of the herds;

·      remove 40,000 animals to get down to the low “Appropriate” Management Level;

·      implement mass euthanasia and/or sale for slaughter to dispose of the 40,000 horses and burros captured, and the 44,000 in holding

·      surgically sterilize all horses and burros who remain on the range…

Rep. Cynthia Loomis calling for the “Lovely and peaceful euthanasia” of wild horses “whose wild lives are over.”

Chairman Tom McClintock asserting that animal rights groups are responsible for “mass starvation” of wild horses on the range and suggesting that wild horses should be managed like livestock and “harvested” when their numbers increase.

The entire hearing was an orchestrated effort to set the stage for slaughter based on trumped up claims of wild horses overrunning destroying the western range. Their argument of overpopulation – based on the number of horses over the agency-determined “Appropriate” Management levels -- is a hoax on the American public. In reality, since 1990, independent governmental and scientific bodies have repeatedly found that BLM’s decisions about “appropriate” management levels and numbers of horses that need to be removed lack any scientific foundation and are driven by the interests of a narrow public interest group at the expense of American taxpayers and our wild horses.

Fortunately, this subcommittee is dominated by rural Western representatives who do not necessarily represent the majority of Congress.  Unfortunately, the BLM and its rancher allies have made lobbying progress in Congress. Although the prohibition on slaughter remains in both the House and Senate Appropriations bills, expect these subcommittee members to make a play to lift it before the 114th Congress concludes its business in December.

Stay tuned.