When you donate on #GivingTuesday, you’re helping Friends of Animals continue the march for the last of America’s wild horses. We are truly thankful for all of the wild horse victories we’ve had, which only bolster our efforts to protect America’s wild horses and the public lands they depend on for survival going forward. Here’s a look at what we believe when it comes to the future of wild horses and some of our recent victories:
What is Friends of Animals position regarding wild horses generally?
A driving principle behind FoA’s mission is that we must reestablish meaning with regards to the word “wild.” Humans often refer to “wild animals” or “wildlife” only to distinguish them from truly domesticated animals. Little thought is given to what “wild” should mean, and how to protect it. The truth is, a majority of all “wild” animals are not wild at all today. They are merely free-roaming, human managed animals. FoA’s definition of wild means no human exploitation and manipulation of the animal, period. Humans should not be managing any wild animal by keeping them in small “herd areas,” or limiting their population through culling, relocation or forcibly drugging them with the fertility control drugs.
Yes, FoA recognizes that many might see our position as a “pipe dream.” Today, public lands in the United States are a bleak place—largely ecologically unsound because of extensive human involvement. We have killed off or limited the number of nearly every native animal; we have over utilized resources; and we have filled the landscape with non-native species. But still, it is a dream we cannot give up on; if we do, then any chance of a return to ecological balance is lost forever. But if we continue to push, maybe we can someday soon see a real push for true ecological zones on public lands; zones where the landscape and animals are free from exploitation and management.
As Aldo Leopold said, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” Friends of Animals cannot.
What have been some of FoA’s victories?
The Bureau of Land Management withdrew its decision to conduct unnecessary, gruesome mare sterilization research on 225 wild mares, including at least 100 pregnant mares, imprisoned at the Wild Horse Corral Facility in Oregon after Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit on Aug. 3, 2016. The BLM’s decision was formally vacated by the Interior Board of Land Appeals Sept. 9. Despite extending its public comment period on this so-called research, and receiving thousands of comments in opposition of it, the BLM, in its eagerness to appease cattle and sheep ranchers who despise wild horses, had approved of the project. What was so appalling about this case is BLM made the decision despite acknowledging in its 2016 Environmental Assessment that the three methods of sterilization—oviarectomy via colpotomy; tubal litigation and laser ablation—would likely cause death or necessary euthanasia and that the sterilization procedures would not stop unless the major complication rate for any gestational stage group exceeded 20 percent. In no uncertain terms, that meant that the BLM could destroy, or kill, up to 45 wild horses before stopping the experiments.
2. Wyoming’s anti-wild horse agenda stopped
In December of 2014, the governor of the state of Wyoming, Matt Mead, tried to sue the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to force the agency to round up hundreds of wild horses from public land in the state, and in October, a federal appeals court basically told him to pound sand by dismissing the lawsuit. Friends of Animals intervened in the case to support BLM’s decision to reject the governor’s request, and while we see this as a positive outcome, we are still appalled and concerned by the anti-wild horse attitude of the governor and the state of Wyoming, which are beholden to cattle and sheep ranchers.
3. Montana’s beloved Pryor Mountain Herd no longer under assault
The beloved Pryor Mountain wild horses of Montana, the last wild horse herd in the state, will no longer be assaulted by Bureau of Land Management roundups following Friends of Animals’ victory in July of 2016. U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters ruled in favor of Friends of Animals’ in a lawsuit we brought against the agency last year when it announced the round-up and permanent removal of 20 young wild horses between the ages of 1 and 3 in the Pryor Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) and the continual removal of six to 12 wild horses on an annual basis. Judge Watters’ decision recognizes that BLM was removing wild horses from the Pryor Mountains before considering a reasonable alternative—determining what the appropriate population for the area is and whether the range could potentially support more wild horses. Judge Waters also ruled in Friends of Animals’ favor that BLM could not ignore its promise to the public to do a more thorough analysis of the Appropriate Management Level (AML) before removing wild horses.