FIXING THE WILD HORSE PROGRAM
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1997:
BY ENZO GIOBBE, COFOUNDER, HORSEAID
Does HorseAid agree that 90%
of the horses adopted through the Bureau
of Land Management go to slaughter, as
alleged in a recent expose by Martha
Mendoza of Associated Press?
No. We cannot find any evidence
to substantiate the 90% figure,
allegedly tossed out by a BLM official
who now denies he said it. Based on years
of investigation, recognizing that there are
still a lot of “Mom and Pop” rendering
houses that do not report brands, and factoring
in the unreported traffic in horses for
slaughter in Canada and Mexico,
HorseAid puts the figure for all the horses
who have ever gone through the BLM program
somewhere between 35% and 60%.
When it comes to horses, horse
people often do things without reason. So
yes, some adopters will keep a BLM horse
the required year, and then put the horse
through auction, taking a loss, because in
a year one will put far more into a horse
than one could ever get out by the pound.
Exceptions are if one has “free” pasture, or
does not keep the horse the required year.
Short keeping is the least explored avenue
to slaughter. It is relatively easy to list a
wild horse as coming off of unprotected
land: National Parks, National Forests,
National Wildlife Refuges, Indian reservations,
or private property.
But do we believe the BLM is
competent enough to pull off and cover up
an agency-wide conspiracy? I think not.
More than likely, most of the
alleged BLM horse adoption program
abuses we hear about have some basis, and
some real abuses never get reported––but
much that is reported is sensationalized,
and some claims are pure speculation.
Most of what I see and hear
amounts to disputed versions of events,
variously described by some individuals
who quit BLM out of principle, some who
quit under questionable circumstance but
say otherwise, and many lower management
employees covering the butts of middle
managers, who in turn cover the butts
of upper echelon management.
While most critics blame
adopters, either for failure to tame horses
or for allegedly abusing the program,
HorseAid blames the BLM for letting
unqualified adopters take horses.
Any horse taken right off the
range is basically not adoptable. The horse
must be trained, like any other untrained
horse, and that’s just what a wild mustang
is—an untrained horse.
HorseAid receives a lot of horses
that are considered “not adoptable,”
because of similar behavioral problems,
usually due to abuse, health problems, or
both. They stay in a HorseAid SafeHouse
until they are re-trained or nursed back to
health. Only then are they are adopted out
to qualified adopters.
Unfortunately, the BLM pays
more attention to the trailer the horse is to
be transported in than to the circumstances
under which the horse will supposedly
spend the rest of his or her life.
HorseAid has long argued that
the 1971 Wild And Free Ranging Horse
and Burro Act did not give the BLM a
mandate to do horse adoptions, and that
the mustangs are the heritage and property
of the American people. We say the BLM
has no right to do what was not in its mandate,
nor does it have the right to give
away what it does not own.
However, we think that with
BLM cooperation, a fair and happy medium
for all interests could be achieved.
HorseAid’s immediate goal
would be to adopt out the horses in the current
BLM inventory as a private contractor.
We class these as currently unadoptable
companion animals, pending evaluation
and training. We believe we can find successful
adopters for these animals, over
whom we would retain title. Once a
HorseAid horse, always a HorseAid horse.
Our longterm goal would be to
phase out adoptions by managing the herds
to a level where the designated Horse
Management Allotments can support them,
providing for special help in years of
severe drought. We would “manage” the
herds by a system of humane field sterilization
using volunteer licensed vets and high
tech field hospitals to geld yearlings.
However, if the consensus of
animal welfare groups is that a reformed
continual adoption program is good for the
future of the mustangs, we could oversee
the adoptions indefinitely.
We would also not oppose relocating
some horses to more natural areas
than the current allotments, and depending
on the recommendations of the various animal
groups with expertise and concern, we
would consider introducing natural predators
into these areas, as a more natural
means of managing the herds.
All of us concerned about the
Mustangs have to work first on emptying
the BLM chutes. As long as the chutes are
kept full of horses, it will always be “business
as usual” in the adoption program.
Next, we all have to work on
achieving an agreeable balance of use of
public lands. This problem, as a whole,
has very little to do with mustangs. But
mustangs, like coyotes, can’t vote, speak
for themselves, or protest their fate, so
they are among the parts of the problem
most readily “fixed” to their detriment.