Following a nationwide furor, the US government says that it does not now plan to cull 45,000 wild horses, as originally announced on 9 September 2016. The rounded-up mustangs are currently being kept in government holding facilities. A proposal by the advisory panel to euthanize them has now been scrapped, following public outrage. It was claimed that the cull was proposed because the government has great difficulty finding people to adopt the increasing number of wild horses and burros, which cost the Bureau for Land Management millions of dollars each year in maintaining their pasturelands and corrals.
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board consequently recommended euthanizing those animals which cannot be adopted or selling them on to companies which might slaughter them for horse-meat. The American Wild Horse Preservation Society claims that this legalized commercial sale for meat has always been the ultimate goal of the bureau, but this has been denied by a spokesman for the bureau, Tom Gorey.
The initial recommendation by the panel caused outrage among animal rights activists and has brought to the forefront the challenges faced by the BLM, as it strives to control the wild horse population. Gillian Lyons, Programme Manager for Wild Horses and Burros at the Humane Society of the USA, comments that the Bureau has a responsibility towards the captured animals. It has been noted that there is no “humane” method of slaughtering 45,000 horses and that if they are offered for unrestricted sale, it will result in their brutal deaths in places such as Canada and Mexico.
The wild horses have been regularly rounded up by the government for decades, but even so, an estimated 67,000 of them roam the United States, mainly in California and Nevada, They have no natural predators, so their number has increased a long way beyond the approximate 27,000 horses which the government says would be a population low enough to stop overgrazing and preserve land for other animals. The Bureau spends around $50 million per year in maintenance for the captured horses and burros in the holding facilities, Gorey commented
The Humane Society criticizes the bureau for overpaying private contractors to maintain the animals, which means that it does not then have the finance to include birth control for the horses on the range, which, according to the Society, would produce a better result than the continual round-ups. However, the Bureau responds by pointing out that birth control is problematic, partly because the drug wears off in no more than 2 years.
Picture courtesy of www.wildhorsepreservation.org