The BLM will not slaughter wild horses as planned, but major problems with its $122 million taxpayer-funded wild horse management program remain.
Following national outrage, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has backed out of the proposed plan to slaughter over 44,000 of the wild horses left in the United States. Though it’s great news that the massive slaughter won’t be taking place as planned, the Wild Horse and Burro program, which is supposed to properly manage government-protected horses and burros, continues to deprive wild horses of their habitat in order to make room for more grazing space for beef cattle.
Under the program, the BLM authorizes 35 times more land for beef cattle grazing than it does for wild horses. In addition, all of the land specified as habitat for wild horses is shared with beef cattle. Since its founding in 1971, the BLM has reduced wild horse habitat by almost 40%. Wild horses lost 2.4 million acres in only 4 years (2005-2009). The publicly-subsidized beef cattle that have taken their place cost taxpayers $122 million every year, but they represent just 3% of the nation’s beef supply. The BLM was also caught last year illegally selling nearly 2,000 protected horses to a rancher, who then sold them all to a Mexican slaughterhouse.
The multi-million dollar program is needlessly expensive and its budget is mostly paid to private contractors. The BLM pays private contractors to round up and keep the horses in holding cells. The costs the contractors charge are outrageous and can sometimes run taxpayers $50,000 per horse.
Horses are herded by helicopters who terrify horses, chasing them into holding pens. Families and herds are usually separated in the process. The roundups are so inhumane that the BLM has been taken to court four times and temporary restraining orders were issued to stop them in two instances. The BLM now holds 44,000 horses in captivity, much more than the 23,000 in the range. Those 44,000 horses were those once destined for slaughter in the BLM’s now infamous plan.
However, the BLM says everything they do is about maintaining the “ecological health” of our nation’s public range-lands. According to the BLM, ending their herd management program would mean the wild horse population would get out of control and overgraze the entire ecosystem. Why then do they replace the horses with cows who overgraze the land even more intensely? As mentioned in our previous article, the BLM makes millions of dollars from leasing public land to ranchers and fracking companies. This is a clear conflict of interest. We must use the momentum generated by the disgraced slaughter plan to end this harmful and costly program for good.
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