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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.


This is my country, I was born here and so where those mustangs in question about to be destroyed , why because they are there. Some say they are not native to this country, well are you? Where did your ancesters come from? Where they among those forced to come here or did they come here on their own? Well now there are too many people, they lack jobs, shelter because they can't afford to purchase a home. Many are homeless living on the streets, in wooded areas, cardboard boxes....what's the answer to them? Shoot them. Same thing isn't it? Why not? Because man can reason and an animal can't? Seems to be that this greatest counrty is failing not only the wildlife, but man as well. The answer in not mass slaughter, cattle and horses can live together there is enough room. Where does it all end, bison, wolf, whale, polar bear, seals, deer,owls, eagle American Indian. It's disgusting, but the goverenment goes home each night to a nice dinner and a warm bed.....and a bigger pocket book.

Wild horses are the very essense of the freedom of the American spirit. And they deserve to remain free. Natural predation (by reintroducing more wolves, cougars, etc.) as well as the natural cycle of available vegetation would keep their population in balance. Humans are out of balance with nature and are only concerned about large grazing areas for cattle. DO NOT SHOOT these horses and DO NOT put them up for so-called adoption. They belong free and wild forever!

Animals have feelings both physical and emotional. Why is that SO HARD for so many people to understand??? I stopped eating meat the second I found out how badly animals raised for food are treated. The more I find out the worse it gets. The fur industry... Most graphic thing I have EVER heard of happens at these places! Animals raised for food... SO SAD! The workers are taught to treat the pigs, turkeys, chickens, etc as objects not living creatures. That is just HORRIBLE! The animals are the ones making them profit and they don't even give them the respect of having a decent life before they are killed. These horses are just beings in nature.. just as we are. If the gov thinks that horses are "over populated" why don't they just start shooting random, innocent, people?? We are over populated too! Illogical, right? Well.. SO IS KILLING THE HORSES!!!

People need to stop pretending animals don't have feelings already!

I have sent email regarding the senseless proposal to kill mustangs in the wild. I would like to know the update to this stupid proposal. Frances Coppola {Blog editors' note: We expect an update in September. Thanks for giving the BLM hell.]

i just went to the BLM sight and voiced myself about there stupid idea to kill these horses,i hope the rest of your readers use the link on this article to voice there.i probably should of been more diplomatic, but thats not my style. stupid is stupid and i needed to point that out to them.anyway, these ranchers are leasing this land with pennys on the dollar from the BLM, so why cant we do the same, cant FOA SET UP A FUND THAT PEOPLE CAN DONATE TO THAT CAN GO AND BUY UP LEASES IN THIS AREA. if BLM trys to prevent it, well hit them with a lawsuit that will make there heads spin., now the ranchers will have some competition for the land and might think of a better way that the horses and cattle can use it.just and idea but if you throw enough crap at the wall, something is bound to stick

As our once wild and free symbol of the North American West is absorbed into Bush/Cheney's Slash and Burn, Get all you can, and can all you get philosophy; we as a common Culture are Losing our Identities as a Country. There are many community programs that could benefit from adopt a burro, mule and mustang for their physical treatment of the disabled/and for the "At Risk" youth to be put to work taking responsibility for these fast fading examples of our 'glorified past' or the real way we used these spirited Equines as beasts of burden. Casting them away, using them-up when their work was finished, and Now with a US. Federal Policy of Official Decimation of over 1/2 of all of the "Wild Mustangs,Burros and mules" that roam over what was/and still should be Native Treaty Lands, I feel that the inept Bush Government should stop and desist All Killing of endangered Wild Horses from Now On, and to find alternative resources for the release of any "over-grazer's that may be in the way of the Gas and oil exploration out West!!! Miigwetch="Thank you' in this important Matter, Robert "Makwa" HarBoldt, (Western Cherokee/Irish/German) FoA comments: Yes, the horses should be free, but never again treated as beasts of burden or even beasts.

There is nothing more beautiful to see than a wild horse running across the plains!! We must save them!!

I love animals more than i love myself. the fact that animals are still tortured and killed in this day and age is apalling. this matter makes me sick and hurts me so deeply. animals have no control and they have no say. we need to speak for them and i"m choosing to speak loudly. these animals deserve a safe and loving home, they deserve to be free and happy and i hope that one day they will be. everyone keep up the good work and please don't stop speaking for the animals!

this issue has raged on for too long. Slaughtering beautiful defensless living animals is unnecessary. I thought we as American's, living in the greatest nation on earth, would be better than that. it's ridiculous to see the level we've stooped too.