Speak Out Against the Mass Killing of Wild Horses

Can We Stop the Mass Killing of Wild Horses? 


On September 9th, 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) voted in favor of an “emergency measure” to kill 44,000 wild horses.

Horses running to pastures on a foggy morning.

The measure reflects demands made by representatives from the beef industry who claim that the growth of the wild horse population is out of control. In addition to requesting that the 44,000 wild horses currently in captivity at BLM facilities be killed, the representatives asked the majority of the population still roaming free be rounded up and sterilized.

If you want to raise your voice against these actions, we’ve provided government contact information at the end of this article. But first, let’s understand how the horses have arrived at this sad and disturbing crisis.

The Decades-Long Fight to Protect Wild Horses 

J. Frank Dobie is an American novelist, newspaper columnist, and expert on life during the days of the open range. Dobie says there were more than 2 million wild horses on the American plains in the 1800s. By the 1950s, human intervention had brought wild horses to the edge of extinction.

The first law put in place to protect this endangered population resulted from the efforts of Velma Johnston, also known as “Wild Horse Annie.” After seeing blood dripping from a livestock truck, she followed it to a rendering plant. This experience inspired her crusade to save the wild horses, which led to the passage of a 1959 law banning the use of motorized vehicles and aircraft to capture wild horses.

In 1971 public outcry over the plight of wild horses—much of which came from the nation’s schoolchildren and their mothers—reached such a pitch that Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. The act declared that “wild horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” and put measures in place to prevent their disappearance.

Too Many Wild Horses? Independent Experts Disagree 

The latest estimates indicate that there are close to 67,000 wild horses living in the United States. The BLM claims that this number is too high, that wild horses have overpopulated, and that action must be taken to correct that. Ginger Kathrens, director of The Cloud Foundation, disagrees.

Kathrens, an award-winning filmmaker, has spent decades documenting wild horses for PBS. She named the Cloud Foundation after a wild palomino stallion who she has filmed since birth. “I began to realize that we were losing America’s wild horses,” Katherns said. “They are rounded up by the thousand, losing in an instant what they value most—freedom and family. I realized that even Cloud and his family were in danger.”

According to Katherns, not only are wild horses definitely not overpopulated, but their numbers are actually kept far lower than those required for genetic viability. Population control measures still stem from an estimate of the number of wild horses done prior to the 1971 Act, which independent experts believe was far too low in the first place. If current policies continue unchecked, wild horses might be in danger of disappearing for good.

How to Raise Your Voice

You can take action now to prevent the mass slaughter of wild horses.

Signing this petition posted by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is a good first step, and from there you can connect to further initiatives to save the wild horses.

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