Search Our Site

Search form


CALL to Action: Reject U.S. Government Proposal to Shoot Horses

July 23, 2008 | Horses / Hunting & Wildlife Management

JULY 2008, DARIEN, CONN. -- Following the latest obnoxious proposal this month from the U.S. government to kill thousands of horses, the international animal advocacy organization Friends of Animals again calls for a full moratorium on the government-sanctioned round-ups, sales and slaughter of free-living horses.[1]

The federal Bureau of Land Management set out in helicopters and harassed and chased roughly half the western herd of mustangs -- a group numbering 30,000 -- into a corral. And now, the officials are proposing to start killing them.

Environmentalists, The New York Times tells us, will go along with this violence because they see the mustangs as "top-of-the-food-chain bullies whose hooves and teeth disturb the habitats of endangered tortoises and desert birds."[2]

We at Friends of Animals are also environmentalists. We aren't calling these horses "icons" or "part of the imagery" of the west. We are calling for respect, and our government should deliver.

If horses are at the top of the so-called food chain, it's our government's fault. Where are the carnivore animals? We could put the blame for their absence squarely at the feet of the U.S. government and its predator-control schemes.

Conflict of Interest?

The Bureau of Land Management is charged with protecting wild horses and burros on the western rangelands. Yet it routinely rounds them up and passes them to private ownership. The bureau is poised to shoot several thousand of them (it plans to decide on the matter after a Congressional audit that's due to be completed in September). To justify this proposal, officials are complaining about expenses. Yet the bureau allows ranchers to enjoy leases to the rangelands for a pittance. Ranchers who claim mustang "overpopulation" degrades the environment. Balderdash.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 2 million mustangs in the wilderness.[3] Today, there's a total of 60,000 (if that many). This community of horses is degrading the environment, but the owners of 3 million cattle are not?

"We must stop supporting the profits of ranches," said Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral. "For those who respect free-living animals, it's simply not enough to express outrage at the proposed shooting of horses. We need to end the cycle of violence. It's high time we acknowledge the connection between horsemeat and hamburgers."

 addiction to animal products.
Priscilla Feral points out the unavoidable root of the problem: addiction to animal products.

Just two years ago, the Bureau of Land Management relaxed the rules and regulations governing ranchers on public land, cutting back on conservation provisions, and allowing ranchers significantly more control. The opposite pressure should be occurring. Ranchers do not merit the support of the government while they siphon land and resources and push free animals to the brink of extinction -- and then blame horses for the mess.

Then we have Jay Kirkpatrick, an experimenter who directs the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana, quoted in The New York Times as saying insufficient weight is being given to birth control for horses. But animals in nature don't need to be controlled by a species that has such difficulty in controlling itself.

For three decades, the Bureau of Land Management has backed costly experiments with contraception as a way to continue aggressive management practices. Jay Kirkpatrick, together with the Humane Society of the United States, have promoted the invasive and disturbing tests of hormones and the immunocontraceptive porcine zona pellucida, or PZP, in free-roaming horses.

Terms like "overabundant" and "overpopulation" are liberally applied wherever free-living animals are deemed inconvenient. The underlying message is that, if not controlled, free-living animals will take over. This both reflects and supports the systematic acceptance of control, and treats all of nature as a zoo.

Recommendations for Action from Friends of Animals:

Go to the root. This is a question of who gets the land: free-living animals, or cattle ranchers. The key step each of us can take in support of horses is to adopt a plant-based diet.

Oppose the BLM's proposal. If you've seen more than enough debates about whether the land can support horses and burros while all along the government supports the real environmental threat -- animal agribusiness -- tell the BLM now, using the link you see here. Or call the BLM toll-free: 1-800-710-7597. Let them know these mustangs should never have been corralled in the first place. Let the horses go, and let them be. Allow them the dignity of freedom.

Then find your representative in Congress, ring them up at 202.224.3121, and explain that real environmental awareness means questioning the influence of corporate profit-seekers over laws and agencies. Say "no" to horse-killing. And tell them you oppose roundups too.

Support Friends of Animals' new radio and television announcements. We're buying 30-second and one-minute announcement spots, asking the public to call the BLM and oppose the horse-killing proposal. You can sustain our public announcement throughout the audit period leading up to the BLM's decision. Let's make the most of the window of time these horses have. Invest in our public education effort; donate here.

Thank you for teaching respect for the autonomous animals of our Earth. Thank you for telling our government no to killing horses.


[1] We have previously called for a repeal of the (2005) Burns Amendment, which reversed a 34-year prohibition on the slaughter of wild horses by enabling the BLM to sell off horses over 10 years of age.

[2] Felicity Barringer, "On Mustang Range, a Battle on Thinning the Herd" - New York Times (20 Jul. 2008).

[3] Deanne Stillman, "Wild Horses Aren't Free" - Los Angeles Times (2 Jun. 2008).

Friends of Animals, founded in 1957, advocates for the right of animals to live free according to their own terms.


I strongly object to the act of killing the wild mustangs. Is that all this country can do is kill and destroy? Wake up America.

What an outrage! Killing wild mustangs so that the cattle lobby can confiscate even more of the environment and build an even bigger profit. We have become a nation without laws, decency or even a soul!

I object to killing of these horses

Just when we think you have pulled your heads out you turn around and stuff them right back up there! Get the cattle off of the horses land! This land is designated for the horses yet they are the ones being "kicked" off of it so the the big fat $$$ beef industry can go in there. Turn those horses loose and get those cattle off of their land and quit trying to eliminate the competition.

Thank you for this accurate article. Overpoulation of our wild horses is NOT the problem. Roundups, adoptions, sanctuaries and Birth control are NOT the solutions. The problem is the corrupt BLM is in bed with the Cattle Ranching Industry. Here in Nevada, there are few small family owned ranches left. Most cattle ranches are owned by rich stockholders back east who have never even seen a cow. (Paris Hilton's family is one example) The problem is ALL our wild animals are being wiped out-every year the BLM kills coytoes, wolves and cougars-as a favor to the Cattle Ranchers. These are the natural predators the wild horses need. BOYCOTT BEEF-it is what is killing our public lands and wild horses. Let the 30,00 roundedup wild horses now in holding pens go free. Round up the cows instead!

Put these 30,000+ horses back on the range from where they came. Get the damn cows off the range. They do more damage than the horses. BLM is charged with the safety of all animals on government [land], not to manage them. They are all part of nature and need no management. The range belongs to them not the ranchers. I could care less about the ranchers.

Placating Rancher by killing 30,000 beautiful Horses is sick and outrageous! This action if carried out will be looked upon by the civilized as a National disgrace!

We've had enough of this fascist (corporate) society. Where's the (corporate) beef?... it's taking the land away from the horses just like we took it away from the Native Americans. Why? corporate profit at any cost to the people and the environment. Corporate America listen, we will take our nation back in November, and hopefully never be so naive as to be fooled into allowing any Republican into the Executive branch of our Constitutional government.

Who pays for these horses to be rounded up. I,ll bet the tax payers do. The ex senitors that the meat industry use as lobbyest and pay money to I,ll bet is also enormous like guys like good old boy Trent Lot.these people are greedy men that have no though of anything but where the next dollar is comming from their all alike, and should be run out of washington DC. Did you know that the goverment land in the black hills has cattle on it and the meat from these steers is served in the goverment cafeterias in washington DC. and also on the tables of these politicions at no cost to them. Why are we supporting these private cattle ranchers with our tax dollars? It,s because they give large amounts of money to the republicion party.How much longer are we Americans going to sit back and let these people rape this beautiful country of ours. Take a look at one of these cattle feed lots and you,ll never want to eat meat again.

Stop eating cattle and leave the land to the horses.