The federal government must reject mass killing of America’s wild horses and burros

By on September 28, 2017 with 14 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today, we face the most severe political threat to wild horses since the enactment of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which Congress passed in response to the random and methodical killing of horses and burros on our western lands by ranchers and others who considered the animals trespassers. Now some players involved in the ongoing debate plan to have the government conduct this mass killing. Either way, people are targeting healthy horses, and that should never be allowed to happen. Not next month. Not next year. Not ever.

The pro-killing crowd is trying to create an atmosphere of crisis in an attempt to justify their cruel and radical plan. The drumbeat of exaggerated claims and doomsday talk is coming from a few powerful western lawmakers and certain officials at the Interior Department. And it’s not without effect. In July, a key House committee secured language in the 2018 annual spending bill for the government that would authorize the mass killing of wild horses and burros.

While we’ve heard the talk before, never have we faced such an imminent threat in the last half century. Some of the people trotting out the doomsday rhetoric are now in a better position to influence final outcomes, and we need to step up to the challenge and parry their attack.

Let’s remember that the mass killing plan would mark a U-turn on the government’s longstanding response to wild horse management. It was only in April that Congress passed a spending bill with sensible wild horse provisions for the remainder of FY 2017. That bill included language preventing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its contractors from sending wild horses to slaughter for human consumption and prevented killing healthy horses and burros. It further directed the BLM to create a plan, due to Congress in November, to maintain long-term, sustainable populations on the range in a humane manner. Key Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and House leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had a lot to do with the right outcome, but they got an assist from with the Republican chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.

Now, just five months after President Trump signed into law the 2017 omnibus spending bill that had this protective language, the Interior Department has spoken approvingly about the idea of mass killing because there are supposedly too many horses and no other viable options. This was foreshadowed in the president’s budget request for 2018, when the department asked for the ability to maintain wild horse and burro populations at dramatically reduced levels and to get there by slaughtering thousands of perfectly healthy animals.

When the full U.S. House took up the massive spending bill for FY 2018 on the floor, a group of animal-friendly lawmakers, led by Reps. Dina Titus, D, Nev., and Peter King, R-N.Y., made an effort to reinstate this protective language. But in a maneuver that indicated the fix was in, the House Rules Committee, led by Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, did not allow the amendment to be offered.

If we are to block the adverse language, we must do so in the Senate, which is set to take up its Interior spending bill next week.

There are major challenges in managing wild horses and burros on our western public lands and in satisfying the diverse stakeholders in the debate. But mass slaughter is not an option that should even be on the table. It’s outside the bounds of how these iconic animals should be treated. It’s an action that runs against the instincts of average Americans. And it nullifies nearly 50 years of federal policy that calls for the protection of these living symbols of the free spirit of the American west.

We’re not suggesting a hands-off policy. We’ve always brought a constructive approach to the resource challenges and a fresh perspective to the wild horse and burro issue. The only sensible move is for BLM to pursue humane and comprehensive management of the animals on and off range, and that means broadly implementing fertility control, instead of treating just 400-500 horses a year and calling it quits. The HSUS has invested millions in developing a working non-hormonal vaccine that reduces reproduction and slows the growth of herds, allowing reproduction and natural mortality to be squared. It works, if only the agency would commit to its use.

Please take action and urge your U.S. senators to fight back against the needless killing of America’s wild horses and burros. You can reach your two U.S. senators through the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask them to ensure wild horses and burros are protected from being mass killed or sent to slaughter for human consumption.

Mass killing of horses and burros is an idea on the margins. It’s far from the mainstream. Federal lawmakers need to hear from you.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Peggy Ellison says:

    Leave the horses and burros alone to run free on their lands. Government keep your greedy hands off these animals. They are happy on their lands, raising their babies and just being horses.

  2. Anne Coladarci says:

    Save the wild horses and burros. Kick the cattle off our public lands. End ranchers entitlements.

  3. Debbie says:

    These horses and burro’s were born free to run the land free the Goverment needs to keep their hands off of them. The helicopter fly over’s is an in human as it gets horses are nervous by nature and your spooking them How dare they all for Capital Gain we Stand for Horses and Burro’s and we will fight this

  4. Anetta Marszałek says:

    To niesamowite barbarzyństwo

  5. Don Talley says:

    These animals , like the misplaced or murdered Native Americans , belong here . Why does the government continue their policy of killing any animal or group of people that they can’t use . I thought manifest destiny was an idea we learned to despise .

  6. Marion Krüger says:

    Stop killing poor and innocent animals that have the right to live!!!

  7. Trish says:

    Please consider other options for the management of the wild horses and burros that wonder our lands. These animals deserve so much respect and love from all of us.
    They are majestic, beautiful and loving animals that have, down through the generations of the white man and yes the Indian also, served us well. I might ask where we would be without them. They served us in the early settling of the west and east of this country of ours. Down to this day they serve us and give us oh so much joy and love.
    Please keep working on a sensible and loving way of managing these animals. Fertility, I believe, is the answer.
    I voted for Trump, but what he has proposed for the control of these animals is something that I never would of have agreed to if I only had known what was to become of the provision of the “Wild Horse Act .
    We are a society of “throw aways”. If it doesn’t fit our agenda at the moment, then let’s just throw it away or kill it. Don’t let this happen to another wild horse or burro that roam our United States of America. PLEASE

  8. Mchele OBrien says:

    these beautiful, innocent animals belong exactly where they are. It’s their land as much as it is anyone else’s.

  9. Jan Boneham says:

    Why not sell some to the public at round up? Perhaps geld some of the stallions…
    Definitely don’t kill indiscriminately…

  10. James Hart says:

    80% of American’s are against the roundup and slaughter of our majestic wild horses. They are a symbol of our history and deserve to be left alone. They are not overpopulated and they are not starving! Ranchers who want to graze their cattle, who are pushing to slaughter them and make you believe they are overpopulated and starving. “The President’s proposed budget would allow “humane euthanasia” of excess horses and burros. It would allow unrestricted sale of certain animals that could end up sold to foreign slaughterhouses.” Please pass H.R.113 – Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017 Mr. President, wouldn’t you enjoy an 80% approval rate??? PLEASE SHARE and Copy and Paste; Petition needs 100,000 signatures before Oct. 30 to go to the whitehouse!

  11. Suzan Jackson says:

    Hello!! You can stop this senseless slaughter–stop eating beef.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.