Queensland is air-gunning 10,000 brumbies
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:
BRISBANE–The government of Queensland, Australia is already
well advanced in a scheme to massacre wild horses on an unprecedented
“More than 10,000 brumbies will be slaughtered in Queensland
in a massive cull the State Government has tried to hide,” revealed
Brisbane Courier-Mail reporter Des Houghton on November 9, 2007.
“Documents obtained by the Courier-Mail show fears of a
public outcry led to high-level talks on how to conceal one of
world’s largest animal culls,” wrote Houghton. “Earlier this year,
then-environment minister Lindy Nelson-Carr told former premier Peter
Beattie that the killing ‘has the potential to precipitate vocal
opposition from small special-interest groups with strong inflexible
“Thousands of horses have already been shot, including 4000
at the popular Carnarvon National Park in central Queensland,”
Houghton said. “In remote areas, the animals are left to rot where
they fall. But government documents show that in other areas
shooters were instructed to hide the bodies.
Save the Brumbies spokesperson Jan Carter told Houghton that
she had received photographs of the Carnarvon cull from an anonymous
government employee. The horses are shot from helicopters. Carter
said the photos show wounded horses left to suffer and foals left
orphaned among the remains of their herds.
“For years and years the problem of wild horses has not been
addressed,” Carter told Agence France-Presse. “And then the idea is
‘Well, let’s go in and shoot them.’ It’s very inhumane. You only
have to see the photos to know they died in agony.”
Carter “urged the Government to set up brumby sanctuaries and
consider infertility treatments to restrict wild horses breeding,”
Houghton wrote. But Houghton said the Royal RSPCA “has condoned the
program, raising the ire of hardline animal groups,” though noting
that “RSPCA spokesman Michael Beattie said his organisation first
suggested the use of infertility drugs 10 years ago and supported
“The RSPCA reluctantly accepts that some sort of cull had to
go ahead,” Beattie elaborated to Agence France-Press, “but we
believe something should have been done about the situation years
before now. We are pleading with the government to introduce
fertility control sooner rather than later.”
“The program is not about eradication of feral horses,”
insisted Queensland sustainability minister Andrew McNamara, “but
rather about ensuring the population is kept at a manageable level,
in consideration of the welfare of both the horses and the native
wildlife in the park. For the first phase of the program, we
investigated all the options, and shooting was considered to be the
most humane solution.”
McNamara alleged that the horses “are causing serious
erosion, spreading weeds, destroying freshwater springs and other
water courses, damaging aboriginal cultural sites, competing with
native wildlife for feed, and destroying habitat.” McNamara did not
mention that horses purportedly also compete for grass with sheep and
cattle when they roam outside Carnarvon National Park, an especially
sensitive topic in the continuing string of drought years. While
Queensland may have as many as 100,000 brumbies, according to
official estimates, Queensland has 11.7 million sheep.
“Documents uncovered by the Courier-Mail confirm that
large-scale culling will continue throughout Queensland for at least
three years in at least four different regions,” Houghton wrote.
“The documents show the Environmental Protection Agency and the
Department of Primary Industries is supporting the mass shooting and
trapping of feral animals, including horses, deer, pigs, goats,
dingoes and foxes.”
All are either competitors or predators of sheep.
A previous furor over brumby-culling methods arose in Western
Australia in March 2006, when Member of Parliament Gary Snook
objected to the practice of the Department of Conservation and Land
Management of fencing wild horses away from water before
reintroducing native fauna. This had been done for seven years
before Snook became aware of it. Brumbies from those herds were used
as warhorses by Australian troops in World War I. Fourteen of the
horses were captured and tamed by the Outback Heritage Horse
Association as a demonstration of taming as an alternative to either
killing them or causing them to die of thirst.
“Those horses carried us to war, they carried us to water,
they carried us to safety and I just think that what the Outback
Heritage Horse Association is doing is a marvellous act of national
spirit that we need to really sit up and take notice of,” Snook told
the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The Department of Conservation and Land Management, which
calls itself CALM, responded that it “has a suitable shooting
program for feral animals and animals which are in distress.”
Another organization, the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse
Association, captured and tamed more than 100 brumbies between 2000
and 2005, after then-New South Wales environment minister banned
shooting horses from the air in NSW national parks.
Brumby Watch Australia co-founder Kristine Sempf recommended
that the Queensland herd should be thinned by capture and taming.
“Her son Nathan has a tamed horse saved from a cull at Greenbank,
south of Brisbane,” Houghton said.