Wild horses are not experiments; BLM unfit to protect them

Wild horses are not experiments; BLM unfit to protect them

 

Despite a pandemic bringing the world to its knees, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is conducting business as usual in terms of its unrelenting assault on America’s wild horses.

Earlier this month, the monsters at the worst government agency began testing oocyte growth factor (OGF), a new fertility-control vaccine, on 16 mares who had been previously rounded up in Nevada, hoping it will become a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the fertility control pesticide porcine zona pellucida (PZP) for controlling wild herd growth, according to media reports.

“Wild horses are not experiments. This is yet another BLM scheme that is not morally or scientifically justifiable, but it fits perfectly into the agency’s wild horse eradication plan,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “It is clear from BLM’s recent report to Congress that it perpetuates the myth that wild horses are overpopulated because it prioritizes commercial activities, such as livestock grazing, oil, gas and mining over protecting wild horses. The agency is unfit to preserve wild horses on federal public lands.”

That’s why Friends of Animals has called on Congressman Raul Grijalva, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, as well as its other members, to amend the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 as it has failed to protect habitat for wild horses. BLM administers 246.4 million acres of land, and it does not allow any wild horses on 219 million of those acres — dedicating approximately 90% of BLM land to other uses and excluding wild horses.

FoA wants legislation that would:

●Limit or entirely restrict cattle and sheep from grazing in wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs)
● Limit oil, gas and mining operations in HMAs
● Allow wild horses to be returned or relocated to Herd Areas in states where wild horses have been wiped out
● Protect natural predators such as mountain lions and wolves
● Adjust outdated appropriate management levels to accommodate more horses

What’s infuriating to FoA is that BLM never provides a scientific basis or explanation to justify its goal of reducing the wild horse population to its stated “Appropriate Management Level” and returning the population to the level it was at in 1971 when Congress recognized that wild horses and burros were “fast disappearing” and in need of protection. Adding insult to injury, upwards of 2 million doomed cattle graze on federal public lands. We said so in our comments to the BLM about this latest dreadful experiment. You can read the comments in their entirety here: XXXXX

The mares unwillingly involved in this distressing experiment will be placed in a pen with a stallion once the vaccine takes effect. Researchers will monitor the mares’ response to the vaccine and compare the results to a control group. The experiment follows a previous study of the multi-dose version of the OGF vaccine that the BLM claims was safely and effectively tested.

OGF prevents wild mares’ oocytes from maturing, rendering the mares infertile. Once administered, the vaccine is effective for at least three years. It can also cause early menopause in mares.

PZP is injected into wild mares to produce antibodies that prevent sperm from attaching to an egg and fertilizing it. Mares on the range receive PZP via dart gun, while gathered mares are administered by syringe. The contraceptive is effective for about a year.

Administration of long-lasting fertility control treatments could result in the permanent elimination of wild horses—the “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” that Congress sought to protect by enacting the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971. BLM completely fails to consider the impact of fertility control on wild horses’ free-roaming behavior and fails to look at the social, behavioral, and physiological impacts of it. Just like with PZP, its current experiment does not include any procedures to monitor the impact of the treatment to wild horses other than to determine whether it is effective at rendering the horses infertile.

Thanks to FoA’s court victory in March, the Environmental Protection Agency is now required to look at the compelling evidence submitted with our petition to cancel the registration of PZP concerning the detrimental impacts of the use of the fertility control pesticide on wild horses rather than shirking its statutory responsibilities.

“It was a long, hard fought case but worth the effort. It’s a thrilling victory for the wild horses and those who advocate for their well-being and freedom and a stunning blow to the meat industry and energy interests who want them wiped out,” said Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program.

There was a time when millions of horses roamed the West; a time when the ecosystem was diverse, the land was rich and the landscape wild. Today, public lands in the U.S. are becoming bleak places—largely ecologically unsound because of extensive human involvement. We have killed off or reduced the population of nearly every native animal; we have over-utilized resources; and we have filled the landscape with doomed cattle and sheep.

“BLM maintains that there is no longer room for a natural free-roaming population of wild horses. But FoA believes, and Congress sought, a place on our public lands devoted principally to wild horses, free from human exploitation and manipulation,” Feral said.

To read our full comments, click here.