Calico Mustangs Given 28-Day Reprieve

Nevada Mustangs Given 28-Day Reprieve IDA Lawsuit Postpones Huge Wild Horse Roundup

Washington, DC (November 24, 2009) - The U.S. Department of Justice announced tonight that the massive roundup and removal of thousands of horses from public land in northwestern Nevada will be delayed until December 28 as a direct result of the filing of a lawsuit by In Defense of Animals and renowned ecologist Craig Downer on November 23.

Tomorrow, IDA and Mr. Downer plan to file a motion for a permanent injunction, with supporting affidavits from horse experts and eyewitnesses to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundups. The motion will ask Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the roundup altogether.

The roundup and removal of 80-90 percent of the estimated 3,055 wild horses living in the BLM’s Calico Mountain Complex was originally scheduled to begin December 1.  The BLM has received over 10,000 public comments in opposition to the roundup.

“We welcome this moratorium on the capture and inhumane treatment of the Calico horses,” said William Spriggs, Esq. of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney, pro bono attorney for IDA and Mr. Downer. “The BLM plan for a massive helicopter roundup of these horses is entirely illegal.”

“We are confident that the court will agree that America’s wild horses are protected by law from BLM’s plan to indiscriminately chase and stampede them into corrals for indeterminate warehousing away from their established habitat,” he said. “The magnificent wild horses and burros of the American West are an important part of our national heritage and must be preserved.”

The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, passed unanimously by Congress in 1971, designated America’s wild horses and burros as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” specifying they “shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death … [and that] to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.”

Since 1971, the BLM has removed over 270,000 horses from their Western home ranges and taken away nearly 20 million acres of wild horse habitat.  Only 37,000 wild horses and burros remain on public lands in the West. By contrast, millions of cattle graze our public lands. Thirty-two thousand wild horses who have been removed from the range are already held in government holding facilities, and the BLM intends to round up 12,000 more horses in FY 2010.


In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi.
IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS  3010 KERNER BLVD.   SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901  415-448-0048

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Lawsuit Filed To Halt Calico Roundup

November 23, 2009

Contacts: William Spriggs, Esq., (202) 452-6051;
                  Eric Kleiman, 717-939-3231

Lawsuit Filed to Halt Huge Wild Horse Roundup

Mass roundup of Nevada Wild Horses Inhumane and Illegal, Suit Charges

Washington, DC
- In Defense of Animals (IDA) and ecologist Craig Downer today filed suit, in the federal U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to stop the Bureau of Land Management's proposed massive roundup and removal of more than 2,700 wild horses from public lands in Nevada. The roundup, slated to begin in early December, will take virtually every wild horse living in the Calico Complex Herd Management Area in northwestern Nevada. It is by far the largest of any wild horse roundup planned by the BLM for Fiscal Year 2010.

"This suit aims to halt the inherent cruelty of the BLM's wild horse roundups, which traumatize, injure and kill horses, subvert the will of Congress and are entirely illegal," said William Spriggs, Esq., a partner at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and lead counsel on the law suit. The firm is representing IDA and Mr. Downer on a pro bono basis.

The suit alleges that the BLM plan to utilize helicopters to indiscriminately chase as many as 2,738 of the estimated 3,095 Calico horses into holding pens violates the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, passed unanimously in 1971. The Act designated America's wild horses and burros as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," specifying they "shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death … [and that] to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.”

"Americans strongly support protecting wild horses on their natural ranges in the West." Mr. Spriggs continued. "We hope to stop the cruel roundups and mass stockpiling of wild horses and burros in government holding facilities while the Obama Administration crafts a new policy that protects these animals and upholds the will of Congress and the public’s desire to preserve this important part of our national heritage."

Since 1971, the BLM has removed over 270,000 horses from their Western home ranges and taken away nearly 20 million acres of wild horse habitat on public lands that were protected by Congress as being "necessary to sustain an existing herd or herds of wild horses and burros ... and ... is devoted principally ... to their welfare." The policy is based on the unsupportable claim that Western ranges cannot sustain wild horses and burros. These animals comprise a tiny fraction of animals grazing the range. An estimated 8 million livestock, but only 37,000 horses and burros, graze on public lands.
Thirty-two thousand wild horses who have been removed from the range are already held in government holding facilities, and the BLM intends to round up 12,000 more horses in FY 2010.


In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi.
IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS · 3010 KERNER BLVD.  · SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 · 415-448-0048


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Takin' It to the Street - And the Beltway Too

November 18, 2009

John Holland
Equine Welfare Alliance
john@equinewelfarealliance.org Ginger Kathrens
The Cloud Foundation
Unified Call for an Immediate Moratorium on Wild Horse & Burro Roundups
CHICAGO, (EWA) – On November 18, 2009, American Citizens and partners in Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa, delivered the following letter to the President, Congress and the Department of the Interior.

A Unified Call for an Immediate Moratorium on Wild Horse & Burro Roundups
And a humane, fiscally responsible plan for preserving and protecting the iconic,
free-roaming wild horses and burros of the American West
President Obama, Members of Congress and the Department of the Interior:
We, the undersigned, request major changes to the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro program. This must begin with an immediate moratorium on all roundups. While we agree that the program is in dire need of reform, and we applaud your Administration's commitment to avoid BLM’s suggested mass-killing of horses, the plan outlined in October by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar raises numerous concerns. These include:
  1. Perpetuating the flawed assumption that wild horses and burros are overpopulating their Western ranges. In reality, the BLM has no accurate current inventory of the 37,000 wild horses and burros it claims remain on public lands. Independent analysis of BLM’s own numbers reveal there may be only 15,000 wild horses remaining on public lands.
  2. Continuing the mass removal of wild horses and burros from their rightful Western ranges: The BLM intends to spend over $30 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to capture more than 12,000 wild horses and burros. This stockpiling of horses continues even as an astounding 32,000 are already being held in government holding facilities at enormous taxpayer expense.
  3. Scapegoating wild horses and burros for range deterioration even though they comprise only a tiny fraction of animals and wildlife grazing our public lands. Far greater damage is caused by privately-owned livestock, which outnumber the horses more than 100 to 1.
  4. Moving wild horses and burros east off their Western homelands to “sanctuaries” in the east and Midwest at an initial cost of $96 million creates significant health concerns if animals adapted to western landscapes are managed on wet ground and rich grasses.
Removing tens of thousands of horses and burros from their legally-designated Western ranges and moving them into government-run facilities subverts the intent of the 1971 Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act, which mandated that horses be preserved “where presently found.” A 2009 DC district court case held that “Congress did not authorize BLM to “manage” the wild horses and burros by corralling them for private maintenance or long-term care as non-wild free-roaming animals off the public lands.”
We appreciate your Administration's recognition of the horses’ value as an ecotourism resource. However, the display of captive, non-reproducing herds in eastern pastures renders them little more than zoo exhibits, further discounting the contribution to our history and the future of the American West.
We believe that workable solutions to create a healthy “multiple use” of public rangelands, protect the ecological balance of all wildlife, and preserve America's wild horses and burros in their rightful, legally protected home can be achieved. We are calling on the Obama Administration to reform the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Management Program.
We ask that you reverse the current course and immediately take the following actions:
  1. Place a moratorium on all roundups until accurate and independent assessments of population numbers and range conditions are made available and a final, long-term solution is formalized.
  2. Restore protections included in the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Update existing laws that protect wild horses by reopening certain public lands to the mustangs and burros, thus decreasing the number in captivity. Return healthy wild horses and burros in holding to all available acres of public land designated primarily for their use in 1971. If these lands are not available, equivalent and appropriate western public lands should be added in their place.
  3. Support federal grazing permit buybacks. Reduce livestock grazing and reanalyze appropriate management levels for herd management areas to allow for self-sustaining, genetically-viable herds to exist in the west.
  4. Conduct Congressional hearings regarding the mismanagement of our wild herds and further investigate the inability of BLM to correct the shortcomings of the program as audited by the Government Accountability Office’s 1990, 1991 and 2008 reports.
Supported by the undersigned on November 16, 2009

Individuals - Go here to sign a petition for a moratorium.

Please note: The following groups and individuals were signatories on the petition at the time it was sent to President Obama. Additional groups and individuals are continuing to sign on. This list is produced in alphabetical order.

Autonomous Makana Ndlambe Horse & Livestock Association, South Africa
Adapting Gaits, Inc.
Alex Brown Racing
American Horse Defense Fund
Americans Against Horse Slaughter
Americans Against Horse Slaughter in Arizona
Andean Tapir Fund
Angel's Gate Hospice & Rehabilitation Home for Animals
Animal Healing Connection
Animal Health and Safety Associates/Pixie Projects
Animal Iridology Center
Animal Law Coalition
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Animals' Angels
Beauty's Haven Farm & Equine Rescue, Inc.
Brad Woodard, Reporter
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition
Castleton Ranch Horse Rescue, Inc.
Chantal Westermann, former ABC reporter
The Cloud Foundation
Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition
The Conquistador Equine Rescue and Advocacy Program
Cornwalls Voice for Animals
Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist and author
Senator Dave Wanzenried, Montana
Deanne Stillman , Author of Mustang
DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary
Ed Harris & Family
Equine Advocates
Equine Protection Network
Equine Rescue and Protection Humane Society of the US, Inc.
Equine Welfare Alliance
For the Love of Jenny Animal Rescue
For the Love of the Horse
Force of the Horse© LLC.
Friends of A Legacy
Front Range Equine Rescue
George Wuerthner, ecologist
Glen Glasscock (long distance rider, world record holder)
The Golden Carrot
Gray Dapple Thoroughbred Assistance Program
Greater Houston Horse Council
Gypsy Heart Horse Rescue
Habitat for Horses, Inc.
Hacienda de los Milagros, Inc.
The Healing Journey Rescue
Helping Hearts Equine Rescue, Inc.
Hidden Creek Friesians
Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund
Home At Last Equine Rescue and Sanctuary
Honeysuckle Farms
Hope Ryden, congressional advisor on 1971 Act, Author America's Last Wild Horses
Horse Play
Horse Power
Horse Rescue, Relief and Retirement Fund, Inc.
Horseback Magazine
Humanion Films
Illinois Equine Humane Center, NFP
In Defense of Animals
Joe Camp, filmmaker, author The Soul of A Horse
Journey's End Ranch Animal Sanctuary
KBR World of Wild Horses and Burros
Lacy J. Dalton, singer/songwriter
Laura Leigh , Illustrator/writer
Least Resistance Training Concepts (LRTC)
Let 'em Run
Lifesavers, Inc.
Live and Let Live Farm Rescue
Madeleine's Mustangs - Madeleine Pickens
Manes and Tails Organization
Maria Daines , Singer/Songwriter
Mary Ann Kennedy, Singer/Songwriter
MidAtlantic Horse Rescue
Mustang Spirit
Mylestone Equine Rescue
Native American Church of Ghost Dancers
Natural Horse Magazine
Natural Horse Talk
Old Friends Equine , A Kentucky Thoroughbred Retirement Facility
Paul Sorvino, Actor
Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, TX
Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary
Quarter-Acre Rescue Ranch & Equine Advocacy Center
Rainbow Meadows Rescue and Retirement, Inc.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary
Reinfree.org | Mestengo
The Rescue Friends
Sacred Heart Equine Rescue
Santiburi Farm
Saving America's Horses A Nation Betrayed
Saving America's Mustangs
Saving Horses, Inc.
Saving Our American Wild Horse
Second Chance Ranch
Silent Voices Equine Rescue
South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Spirit Riders Foundation
Spoiled Acres Rescue Inc.
Spring Farm CARES Animal Sanctuary
Star Lit Stables
Summer Haven Rescue
Sustainable Obtainable Solutions
Terri Farley , author of The Phantom Stallion Series
Tranquility Farm
Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue
Wayne McCrory, Wildlife Biologist and Conservationist
Wendie Malick, Actress
Valhalla Wilderness Society
WFL Endangered Stream Live
Whispering Winds Equine Rescue
Wild Burro Rescue and Preservation Project
Wild For Life Foundation
Wild Hoofbeats
Wild Horse Observers Association
Wild Horse Preservation League
Wild Horse Spirit
Wild Horse War Room
Wild Horses In Need
Win Animal Rights
Wind Dancer Foundation, Inc.
Winecup/Gamble Ranch
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Horse Slaughter: Fact Sheet - International Fund for Horses



There is a silent spectre that haunts our horses, and one that many Americans are still unaware of. Every week our young, healthy horses are sent across our borders to be slaughtered for human consumption overseas.

The largest number are Quarter Horses, although Thoroughbred race horses, and even some of our wild Mustangs are routinely slaughtered. Their meat is processed, freeze packed and shipped to countries like Belgium, France, Italy and Japan, where horse meat is considered a delicacy.

Why does this industry still exist?

Short Answer: There is a demand for it.

Horse slaughter exists for one reason and one reason only — for the sole purpose of providing horse meat for human consumption to those who eat it.

Although the number of horses slaughtered declined sharply for a period of years, there has been a recent resurgence in demand.

Horse meat is viewed as "clean meat" and a good alternative to beef and other traditional meats because of BSE and other contamination scares.

Europeans and Asians who consume horse flesh are willing to pay a high price for American horse meat, which is described by butchers and purveyors of horse meat as the very best on the market.

"I only buy American meat, which is red and firm. In butchering terms we call it 'well-structured', the best you can get. Out of a thousand animals, only the American ones are really worth buying. But they don’t eat horse meat in America. They raise horses for foreigners."

~ Quote from a Butcher in France

How many horses are slaughtered from the United States?

Initially, fewer U.S. horses were killed for their meat with the closure of three U.S. horse-slaughter plants in Illinois and Texas for violating state laws in 2007.

According to the USDA, however, nearly 100,000 equines were exported from U.S. to Mexico and Canada to be butchered in 2008. 2009 will see a further increase in that number.

Those are the ones who are counted.

Our wild horses and being slaughtered, but because the BLM fails to brand and accurately track them, the number cannot be reliably known.

Where do the horses come from?

Horses are not raised for slaughter as they are not traditional food animals, so they must be bought. Licensed horse dealers, known as "killer buyers," act as middlemen for the slaughterhouses and frequent the auctions where horses are sold.

Mass quantities of horses are bought by these dealers at unbelievably cheap prices, who then transport the horses and resell them to the slaughterhouses for profit.

Many times an auction house and the dealer will not turn away an unfit animal, because as long as it can live till it gets to a slaughterhouse, they can be killed for their hides. These horses are called "skinners." Slaughterhouses typically have a tannery either on site or nearby for this reason.

A number of the horses who end up at slaughterhouses are stolen, and can disappear without a trace.

However, statistics from one of the largest groups that assist owners in the recovery of their stolen horses, Stolen Horse International (netposse.org) show that approximately 60% of stolen horses are killed at slaughter plants.

What type of horses are slaughtered?

Horses of virtually all ages and breeds are slaughtered, from draft types to miniatures.

Horses commonly slaughtered include unsuccessful race horses, horses who are lame or ill, surplus riding school and camp horses, mares whose foals are not economically valuable, and foals cast off by the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) industry, which produces the estrogen-replacement drug Premarin®.

Ponies, mules, and donkeys are slaughtered as well.

A vast majority purchased for slaughter are in good health and bought for only a few hundred dollars.

How do horses get to the slaughterhouses?

Horses are transported, often thousand of miles, from all over the country for export in double-decker trailers designed for cattle in all types of weather with no food or water.

Often there is not enough clearance for the horses to hold their heads in a fully upright position.

No consideration is given to the gender or the condition of the horses as they are crammed into these trucks.

Horses are often injured and some even arrive at the slaughterhouse dead.

How are the horses killed?

United States

The ones who survive the ordeal of transportation are held in pens until it is their turn to be butchered. The horses stand in the killing line smelling the blood, sensing the terror ahead. They are electrocuted or speared into the "kill box" where they shake violently, falling, unable to stand from fear.

Under federal law, horses are required to be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter, usually with a device called a captive bolt gun, which shoots a metal rod into the horse's brain. Prior to the closure of the U.S. horse slaughter plants, it was not uncommon for horses to be improperly
Photo of a captive bolt pistol / bolt gunCaptive-bolt gun Image via Wikipedia

stunned and therefore conscious when they were hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut.
A major misconception is that animals being readied for slaughter are stunned with a captive bolt in order to make the process more humane. The fact is, the captive bolt stunning mechanism was designed to protect slaughterhouse workers from the flailing limbs of terrified animals and increase the speed of the production line.

Mexico and Canada

With the export of horses to slaughter increasing more than 300 percent, undercover footage shows live horses being dragged, whipped, and crammed into trucks in 110 degrees on their way to a horrific form of slaughter in Mexico and Canada.

These horses are stabbed multiple times in the neck with a "puntilla knife" to sever their spinal cords. This procedure does not render the horse unconscious, and it is not a stunning method.

Rather, it paralyzes the horse, leaving him/her twitching on the ground, unable to move or breathe, and then the animal dies from suffocation (because their lungs stop working) or from blood loss and dismemberment.

Conditions in the slaughterhouse—inside and outside of our borders—are stressful and extremely frightening for horses.

If horse slaughter is banned, where will all the horses go?

The number of horses slaughtered in 1990 was a staggering 350,000, a number that dropped to an all time low of 42,000 in 2002. Between 1992 and 1993 alone, the number of horses slaughtered dropped 79,000. These decreases did not create a glut of "unwanted horses." Society absorbed these horses, and the market remained stable, just as it will when horse slaughter is eliminated altogether.

The phrase "unwanted horses" is a myth created by horse slaughter supporters. The number of horses slaughtered each year is the one used by them to arrive at the number of so-called "unwanted horses" for the same time period. In actuality, the number of horses slaughtered each year is the number of horses the horse slaughter plants have the capacity to butcher and process.

There are many alternatives to horse slaughter. Horses can be given another chance at life through retraining and adoption programs as pleasure horses, with rescues, retirement homes, and sanctuaries. Horses can also enjoy second careers as Mounted Police horses, at riding schools and as therapy horses.

If a horse becomes old, infirm or mortally ill, then the horse should be euthanized by a qualified veterinarian. There are a wide variety of options for disposing of their bodies that range from the costly to economical. These include burial (where permitted), cremation, rendering, composting and landfills.

Texas A&M, in response to this question, released a special report on composting as a viable alternative that would be both environmentally and politically beneficial, predicting that this could become a big market when horse slaughter is banned.

If horse slaughter or export for slaughter is banned, won't abuse and neglect increase?

California banned horse slaughter in 1998. California has experienced no increase in abuse case, and even noted a decrease 3 years following the ban.

During the 4 years that Cavel was closed, Illinois saw a noticeable decrease in abuse and/or neglect cases. Texas, which had the only two slaughter plants in 2003, had among the nation's highest rates of cruelty and theft.

The conclusion is clear – horse slaughter does not decrease abuse and neglect but actually encourages it.

What Can I Do To Help?

Support organizations like ours working to put an end to horse slaughter and export for slaughter.

Be a responsible horse owner.

Sponsor the care of a horse in a horse rescue or sanctuary.

Think carefully before breeding a mare and consider adopting your next horse from an equine rescue organization.

Plan for your horse's eventual death by setting aside funds for humane euthanasia by a veterinarian, in case it becomes necessary.

Menopausal women on hormone replacement therapy should ask their doctors to prescribe one of the many safe and effective, FDA-approved alternatives to Premarin®.

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The Thunder of Their Hooves

This lovely, haunting post was so moving I just had to reblog it from Straight from the Horse's Heart. If you don't read this blog regularly, you should.

The Thunder of Their Hooves
November 4, 2009 R.T. Fitch

by Jerry Finch, founder and President of Habitat for Horses

It happened long before our time, far before time even began, in a place of mist and trees, in a place of open land and brilliant moonlight, in a time and space far beyond our creation or knowledge. Aware, alert, in touch with the rhythm of the earth, they lived in a place we never knew, that we could never imagine. Their hoof beats thundered across the plains. Their cries echoed through the valley. In vast herds, in small family groups, they dwelled in a world removed from humans, in a world unto themselves.

What it must have been like for that first human encounter! Gentle, inquisitive, brave, that lone stallion that walked through the morning fog and stood before the hunter. Did the hunter stand in awe of his beauty, unprepared for the encounter, unknowing of all that stood before him? Did the hunter lay down his spear and walk gently toward the stallion? Did the stallion walk toward the hunter? Did they greet one another as equals, two spirits born of freedom?

I’d like to think it started that way, that the first encounter was of a gentle nature, that the two instantly understood, acknowledged, and eventually passed on through the fog, understanding that nothing, ever again, would be the same for either one of them. Tens of thousands of years ago, seen through the early morning mist – a brief meeting of two spirits that would forever change all that we are to one another. Our future, and that of that horse, would thereafter be entangled together.

They didn’t depend on us. It was us who depended on them. We mounted and rode swiftly across the plains; they became our wings as we soared to distant lands. They carried us, our families and our belongings. They expanded our world far beyond the horizons.

Through some twist of evolution, we were able to bring them into our world. We asked them to forget about their world, to leave behind all that was and become part of all we created. Far later, such a move would be called “dominion” and be claimed as a right given to us from our God.

And under that authority, we herded them, raised them, bred them, stalled them, whipped them into submission, put restraints on them, saddled them, shoed their hooves, and used them until they dropped, then we either left them to starve or killed them and ate their flesh.

natural_history_prehistoric_horses_200Not all humans did that. Even in the days before the Bible, people wrote of gentle training, of the majesty and the glory that stood before them. On cave walls are paintings that show the wonder of the horse, the awe we felt as we stood before them. The Bible has more references to equines than any other animal. Countless images and words bring an understanding of the devotion that many had, the love which many felt.

Yet our history is one of cruelty, not of love. Many cry over the fallen, while only a few do the killing. We’ve let it go on for so many centuries that we’ve accepted it as human nature. We’ve let the few destroy what the many want to save.

Listen to the horses on a quiet morning. Listen as they nicker to one another through the early morning’s mist. Hear their soft sounds beneath the background of the crickets and the awakenings of the birds. We didn’t remove all that they were. They are still as wild and majestic and perfect as they were ten thousand years ago. They could still live without us. They don’t need us, you and I.

They don’t need us, but we need them.

We need them to forgive us for all we have done, all for all we continue to do. We need them to bring us to the earth, to bring us back in touch with the purity of nature. We need to feel the warmth of their breath, the touch of their nose. We need to be assured that all is forgiven, that we, no matter who we are or what we have done, will be accepted by those who live in a place so far away from our own, in a world that we will never understand, one of which we can only dream.

For we know that despite all the cars we buy, all the digital cameras we own, that regardless of the perfect houses we live in and the jobs we have, we’re missing something. There is emptiness beneath our soul, a piece that was never found in a puzzle that will never be complete. In our desperate attempt to claim all that we see, to show that we are the masters of the universe and all that stretches before us, we’ve forgotten that essential part of our nature that belongs with the hunter, looking through the early morning mist at the stallion that stands before him.

We’re forgotten that we share the world. We’ve claimed dominion, but we’ve failed as caretakers. In our efforts to become gods, we’ve lost sight of the true function of God – to protect and have compassion for the earth.

In listening to the horse we can hear the calling, we feel the return. It’s there, just beyond our reach. If only….if only we could feel the thunder of their hooves.

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Congressional Committee Will Call for Moratorium on Gathers

helicopter running down wild horses 


© by Laura Allen, Executive Director, Animal Law Coalition

Update Nov. 2, 2009: A Congressional staff member has confirmed to Animal Law Coalition that the House Natural Resources Committee is calling on BLM to stop all gathers or removals of wild horses and burros until Congress takes action on the controversial issues surrounding the wild horses and burros. 
A Congressional staff member told Animal Law Coalition, "It is my understanding that BLM has 11 more roundups planned for 2009 and is expecting to remove more than 6,000 horses.  This is unacceptable especially in light of the fact that these roundups are not based on science." 

Support the House Natural Resources Committee's call for a moratorium! Write or call your U.S. representative and senators and urge them to support a moratorium pending decisions by Congress on the role of the BLM and the course of the wild horses and burros program.  Copy the Committee on any fax or letter to your representative and senators so they can see your support for a moratorium! 

For more information, read Animal Law Coalition's call for a Congressional investigation and moratorium on gathers!

Original report: It's time for a public Congressional hearing and investigation of BLM's management of America's wild horses and burros including the new plan recently announced by DOI and BLM. 

In the meantime and pending decisions about the course of the wild horse and burro program, there should be a moratorium on gathers. 

On October 7, 2009 Dept. of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey announced a new 3 part plan for managing America's wild horses and burros in the future. But, other than a press release and a letter to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the specifics of the plan have not been made public. As Mr. Abbey said in the press conference held on Oct. 7, 2009, there are "thousands" of wild horse and burro enthusiasts who care about the fate of these animals. There are also innumerable experts and citizens concerned about BLM's management of these American icons.

There should be a public hearing and investigation held by Congress regarding BLM's management of America's wild horses and burros particularly before yet another plan essentially approved only by BLM and DOI is put in place. There should be a moratorium on all gathers until Congress has completed public hearings and an investigation and reached a decision about the appropriate management of these animals consistent with the laws that protect them. These are after all America's wild horses and burros.

The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) directs BLM to manage America's wild horses and burros to "maintain free roaming behavior".  All management activities by law are to be at the "minimal feasible level". Under WFRHBA America's wild horses and burros are entitled to humane treatment and to remain free from "capture, ...harassment, or death".

helicopter running down wild horses

But, instead, the BLM largely manages these animals by running them down with helicopters and gathering or removing them from public lands to holding facilities, separating families, injuring and even killing horses in the process. A terrifying ordeal that leaves wild horses and burros in holding pens where few are adopted, many are sold for slaughter and still more languish, their spirits and bodies broken. The operation of holding facilities will consume about 70% of the total 2009 budget for these animals.  

Surely, that is contrary, to say the least, to the directive of the WFRHBA. Indeed, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer found in her August 5, 2009 opinion: "It would be anomalous to infer that by authorizing the custodian of the wild-free roaming horses and burros to manage them, Congress intended to permit the animals' custodian to subvert the primary policy of the statute by capturing and removing from the wild the very animals that congress sought to protect from being removed from the wild." Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Inc. v. Salazar, No. 06-1609 (D.D.C 2009)

Mr. Salazar insists that "arid western lands and watersheds" can't support the few wild horses that remain "without significant damage to the environment" and "degrading public lands".  These are reasons typically stated by BLM in its environmental assessments and environmental impact statements to support removals of wild horses and burros from herd areas. And, just as typically, there are no specifics to support these claims.

For more examples....

Indeed, Mr. Salazar and BLM do not mention the thousands of cattle grazing and drinking and fouling water on these lands, BLM's land sales, development, increasing recreational use, and mining as well diversion of water from herd areas. Wildlife ecologists say if public lands are "degraded", something that is disputed, these factors are far more to blame. In fact, citizens living in the areas where there are wild horses and burros, including small ranchers, contradict BLM's assessments the range is "degraded" or lacks sufficient water for these few remaining animals. 
Note that in 1990 BLM claimed the range was the best it had been in the last century. Yet, since then, there has been an increase in the numbers of wild horses and burros removed from the range. There is also no question BLM has routinely renewed grazing permits, finding the range satisfactory for grazing cattle and at the same time, issue environmental assessments that claim the very same range cannot support the few wild horses and burros that remain. BLM has also relied on outdated or what can only be called completely false assessments in its apparent zeal to justify removal of wild horses and burros. 

Shouldn't Congress at least have a hearing or investigate whether BLM's claims are true? Shouldn't Congress consider whether BLM should even continue as the manager of the wild horses and burros program? An agency that has turned the WFRHBA on its head and instead of managing to maintain free roaming behavior, does so by removing and penning wild horses and burros. 

It is also questionable whether BLM really has the authority, as it claims, to manage America's wild horses and burros in all respects pursuant to a multiple use concept. Though WFRHBA mentions "multiple-use relationship" in connection with specified ranges, it is very clear that the directive is to manage these animals otherwise only to "maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands" and "protect the natural ecological balance of all wildlife species which inhabit such lands, particularly endangered wildlife species".
wild horses

In effect, WFRHBA authorizes only limited interference with wild horses and burros in herd areas where they were living in 1971. Nothing about removing wild horses and burros from herd areas where they lived in 1971 to allow multiple use such as cattle grazing, recreation for off road vehicles, mining or development. Also, protecting the ecological balance of all wildlife has never meant rounding up and removing whole species. Especially when there is a law that explicitly protects their right to exist in historic herd areas.
Even designated ranges managed under a multiple use concept are to be "devoted principally" to wild horses and burros. The wild horses and burros on these lands are not to be eliminated for cattle or mining or recreation or even secondary to these other uses.  

Despite the limited authority to interfere with wild horses and burros under WFRHBA, the BLM has decided, however, the multiple public use concept applies to all herd areas as well as ranges. BLM even issued a regulation that effectively rewrites WFRHBA to say the "objectives of these regulations are management of wild horses and burros as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands under the principle of multiple use". 43 CFR § 4700.0-2 Yet, the WFRHBA says only that wild horses and burros "are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands". 16 U.S.C. §1331.

The BLM has also authorized itself to divide herd areas into "herd management areas", something not authorized by WFRHBA. 43 CFR 4710.3-1. In this way, with no statutory authority at all, BLM has limited wild horses and burros' access to thousands of acres that were historically their herd areas. This is done without thought about the horses' seasonal migration patterns or available resources. The BLM then removes wild horses and burros from the artificially created "herd management areas" on the basis there is insufficient forage, water or habitat! BLM also targets them for removal if they cross the artificial boundaries into their original herd areas.

While BLM has authorized itself to create divide herd areas into Herd Management Areas, its own regulations provide that "management of wild horses and burros shall be undertaken with the objective of limiting the animals' distribution to herd areas, 43 C.F.R. § 4710.4."Herd area" is defined by regulation as "the geographic area identified as having been used by a herd as its habitat in 1971," 43 C.F.R. §4710.4.
Another example of BLM's erosion of the WFRHBA protections is the rewording of the WFRHBA mandate "[a]ll management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level". BLM's regulation says "[m]anagement shall be at the minimum level necessary to attain the objectives identified in approved land use plans and herd management area plans." 43 CFR 4710.4, 16 U.S.C. §1333. Two very different laws. So if a land use plan authorizes a land giveaway or increased recreation or mining, "management...at a minimum level" can mean round up and removal, according to the BLM.
The Federal Land Policy Management Act requires management of public lands under concepts of multiple use and sustained yield. 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701, et seq.  But the multiple use concept does not trump the WFRHBA protections for wild horses.  In fact, the statute makes clear that the protections under WFRHBA take precedence. FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. § 1732 (a) Yet, despite this, BLM has issued a regulation that provides "[w]ild horses and burros shall be considered comparably with other resource values in the formulation of land use plans." 43 C.F.R. §4700.0-6(b).

The BLM's land use plans make clear that contrary to WFRHBA, it does not decide to remove wild horses and burros only to maintain a "thriving natural ecological balance to the range, and protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation". Nor are the protected wild horse ranges "devoted principally" to the use of wild horses and burros. Instead, the BLM clearly embraces the multiple use concept for all lands designated for wild horses and burros.  Indeed, the plan seems to be to eliminate or zero out the wild horses and burros in favor of increased development and recreational use, mining, and cattle.
Surely, BLM's fast and loose interpretation of the WFRHBA is more than sufficient for Congress to take a look, hold a public hearing and investigate before America's icon is lost forever.

wild horses in NV

It should be noted that BLM has also virtually ignored the directive in the WFRHBA to "maintain a current inventory of wild free-roaming horses and burros on given areas of the public lands". 16 U.S.C. §1333(b). According to WFRHBA, the inventory is critical in determining appropriate management levels or AML and whether there is indeed an overpopulation or excess horses and burros. Yet, BLM has gathered and removed thousands of horses without the important information necessary to determine if the removal is legal. It's time to take a look, an independent census and standardize AML determinations.

It is important for Congress to open up for public review the work of an agency that has operated largely in secret, offering the public generally pre-determined courses of action, making a joke out of the public comment process. It is also time BLM or whatever agency that is put in charge of the wild horses and burros took seriously the WFRHBA mandate requiring consultation not with special interests but also a range of independent experts recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, the states and those with  "scientific expertise and special knowledge of wild horse and burro protection...[and] wildlife management". 16 U.S.C. §1333(b).

Congress should hold public hearings and investigate Secretary Salazar's plan in particular. There are innumerable experts outside of the BLM who should have an opportunity to weigh in on how BLM continues to manage America's wild horses and burros.

Secretary Salazar delivered the following 3 part proposal to Sen. Reid: 1. BLM will work with non-profits and the "thousands" of wild horse enthusiasts to create sanctuaries and preserves in the Midwest or east. In fact, BLM appears to have already decided on sever preserves. It is not known who is involved in these transactions or how BLM decided on these preserves. Surely, the public is entitled to know how this happened. Mr. Salazar says tourism would be encouraged and could provide a source of revenue.  But the mandate of the WFRHBA is to avoid such zoo-like settings for these American icons. The idea, the law, in fact, is that these animals are to remain free to roam on the public lands where they were living in 1971 when the Act went into effect.

2.  Mr. Salazar will designate more ranges for wild horses. He cited the Pryor Mountain herd, recently rounded up and decimated, as an example of a range under BLM protection.

wild horses

3.  This is one of the most troubling aspects of Mr. Salazar and Mr. Abbey's plan. They say BLM will work to restore the "sustainability" of herds and public lands. BLM will continue to round up and remove horses but step up "fertility control", monitor sex ratios, and introduce non-reproducing herds.  More like BLM will work toward the extinction of herds.  The obvious concern is how a herd that is non-reproducing or sterilized can remain self-sustaining, genetically viable, as mandated by law. There are serious questions here about BLM's determination of sex ratios. These proposals will have a very negative effect on herds and herd behavior. This plan euphemistically referred to as "restoring sustainability" during the press conference, is, in fact, the opposite, a plan to exterminate the wild horses and burros and in doing so, create great chaos and suffering in the herds. In effect, this plan raises real concerns about compliance with WFRHBA's mandate that BLM should manage these animals to maintain "free-roaming behavior" and a "thriving natural ecological balance" in herd areas.

There are also growing concerns about the effectiveness and use of the contraceptive, PZP, particularly in view of its effect on herd behavior and dangerous side effects such as out of season foals.

These plans likely stem from BLM's secret discussions that began in July, 2008 about ways to eliminate wild horses through unlimited slaughter, killing, manipulation of sex ratios, sterilization of mares, creation of gelding herds and the like. It is telling that here there is no promise in this plan to stop the slaughter of these wild animals or killing of healthy animals. There is no promise to stop the round ups, the decimation of herds, the brutal treatment of America's wild horses and burros in holding facilities.

During its discussions in the past year BLM considered ways to keep the public away from round ups and the killing of healthy horses and burros and planned to brand protests as "eco-terrorism".  This was all to be done in secret. If Congress does not hold a hearing, investigate this plan and this agency, BLM will have succeeded.


The wild horses and burros can be saved. There has to be a better way to manage these animals other than by hiring criminals to run them down with helicopters and penning some for life and sending others to slaughter. The WFRHBA requires them to be protected in their herd areas where they were living in 1971. And that is what the BLM should do. 

Find and contact your U.S. senators here and urge them to hold a hearing or investigate BLM's management of America's wild horses and burros and tell the BLM to stop rounding up and killing or removing our wild horses and burros or selling them for slaughter and return them to the lands where they were living in 1971. 
Go here to write your U.S. representative and urge him or her to do the same! 
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Update on Conquistador and Rescued Bands - The Cloud Foundation

Update on Conquistador & Rescued Bands
 And what you can do to help put a moratorium on current massive roundups

Dear Friends of the Wild Horses;

I had the honor of traveling to Montana to visit our families of older wild horses that had been removed from the Custer National Forest Lands. These older horses include 19 year-old Conquistador and 21-year-old Grumpy Grulla. 15 horses in all, comprising four family groups.

We were able to buy and adopt them so they could stay together in their family units. Through the efforts of Laura & Carl Pivonka and Mike Penfold a large ranch was found just north of the Pryors where the horses could stay. When I arrived on Thursday with my friends, Crow Elder and Historian, Howard Boggess, and former BLM Deputy Director, Mike Penfold, I found all the horses looking healthy, but still in corrals awaiting release out into their large pasture that The Cloud Foundation has leased.

On Friday, in preparation for their release, ranch manager, Baerbel Streutzle and I began flagging miles of perimeter fence with pink and orange marking tape so the horses could clearly see the boundaries of their new world. One fence had to be built to avoid a gate that Crow Tribal hunters frequently use but may or may not shut. After our “fencers” (as Baerbel calls them) completed that fence we put them to work adding an additional wire to the top of a fence that borders the ranch road.

The fun part began that evening. I filmed as Baerbel quietly opened the gate for Bo, Chalupa, little Star, Grumpy Grulla, Sierra, and Sand to exit their large paddock and enter the immense pasture that is now their home. I expected them to race away from us, but once in the open field, they were much more interested in grazing. After weeks of eating only hay you could just see their joy at diving into the lush grass at the ranch.

Saturday morning, Laura and Carl, Mike and  his wife, Dona, and Howard arrived and helped us release first Trigger, Mae West and Evita, then Shane, Mystery and Moshi, and then Wild Blue (aka Floyd), the four-year old bachelor who had been mistreated in the chutes and even hotshotted by Troy Cattoor, who is the son of the owners of the Catoor roundup company.

Bo, Trigger, and Shane greeted each other in typical band stallion fashion, standing nose to nose sniffing and snorting, then squealing, spinning and finally marching back to their mares. Wild Blue, however, drew more attention from Trigger and they really fought for a few minutes before Trigger got his message across. Stay away from my mares! Wild Blue had likely been challenging Trigger on the day of their capture as he was caught with the band the day of their roundup.

Last to be released was Conquistador and his mare, Cavelitta. The proud old stallion (looking not a day over ten) and his mare pranced side-by-side into the big pasture and Shane immediately raced up to Conquistador for a ritual greeting. Then Wild Blue galloped over, making a dash at Cavelitta. Very quickly Conquistador taught him a lesson about messing with the tall black mare.

Wild Blue looked so small as Conquistador bit him on the neck and put a leg over the young stallion’s back. Once Conquistador had made his point, all the bands moved apart and went back to peacefully grazing. 

After the big release, the hardest work began. Laura, Carl, Mike, Dona, Howard, myself and Baerbel, as well as her friend and neighbor, Andrea (aka Shorty), began attacking the burdock growing at the back of the pasture in the cottonwoods and aspen trees. We cut the burdock and stacked the tall plants in piles and began burning them. Burdock has burrs that cling to the horses manes and tails and we tried to get as much of it cut and burned as possible. We were told that the idea for Velcro came from the burrs on these plants that can grow to six feet. I can believe this because I spent a lot of time pulling burrs out of my shoelaces, socks, and wool hat.

On Sunday we traveled back to Billings and watched the premier of Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions together feeling really good about the rescue of these little bands and their safety on this isolated ranch.

Thanks for making this happen! Without your donations to the Freedom Fund, these horses would have been forever separated and confined. Some would likely have gone into government holding facilities or even worse.  We hope that we can count on your continuing support as we work to return them to their home in the Pryors or to 70,000 acre Garvin Basin in the adjoining Bighorn Mountains. The Crow Tribe of Indians has expressed a desire to have their ancestral ponies again roaming on tribal lands.

For now, these horses are together and safe. . . thanks to you! I was not able to make the long trip around to access the Pryors and see Cloud for myself, but others who have seen him and the other horses in the wild report that they are well. It was at a cost of over $150,000 that our government removed 57 horses this September in the Pryors, leaving Cloud and only 124 other horses roaming free in all of Montana.


The BLM is now in the process of removing over 12,000 more wild horses and burros from our public lands. According to independent analysis of BLM’s own 2008 numbers we don’t have more than 15,500 wild horses left on the range. Please join the Cloud Foundation in calling for an immediate moratorium on the roundups now underway. You can see a schedule of the roundups here.

Action alert steps here:
1.    Send your letters demanding an immediate moratorium on all roundups to President Obama. Call your Representatives and follow up with faxes, letters and calls to all.  The roundups must stop in order to allow time for independent analysis on the true numbers of horses remaining and investigations into the true reasons for removing 12,000 wild horses and burros this fiscal year.

2.    Sign the Save Our Wild Horses Resolution petition to stop the roundups & join the Cloud Foundation mailing list to stay informed (join us on Facebook & Twitter & check our Blog for frequent updates too).
3.    Please watch the investigative report from CBS's George Knapp: "Stampede to Oblivion" and share this online video with everyone.
4.    Last but not least, 
contact media—this story of mismanagement of our mustangs and burros, truly living history, needs to be explored & shared. Write letters to the editor and ask National outlets for better coverage- we are on the verge of losing wild horses and burros before most of America knows we still have them in the wild. Media contacts online.


*Correction! This photo was incorrectly credited in the last e-mail, photo of Cloud turning to face the helicopter is Living Images by Carol Walker*
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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra