While Wyoming is home to 1,270,000 cattle (2.18 cows for every person in the state) state lawmakers think the Federal Government should slaughter the wild horses in the state and elsewhere.
A recent article in WyoFile: "Resolution calls for gathering, slaughter of wild horses for meat" announces HJR 3. A bill that "calls on the federal government to amend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and other policies, so that wild horses can be gathered, slaughtered, processed and shipped to market domestically or abroad. "
WY State Rep. John Winter wants to slaughter American horses. Even though he would take his "old retired steeds to a slaughterhouse" and also stated "People need a place to take old horses they're not serving a purpose anymore, people can't afford to feed them, and we need to provide that opportunity." This is an issue for privately owned horses not wild horses, however the American people have spoken loudly on this topic as well trying for decades to get a federal bill passed. Perhaps Rep. Winter should consider humane euthanasia instead.
The American Public overwhelmingly do not support the slaughter of American horses, wild or tame. A recent (Feb 7, 2022) ASPCA national poll shows an increasing number of Americans (83%) are opposed to the slaughter of horses. This is an increase from 80% in a previous poll. Also it has been widely known that horses are not raised as food animals in the United State thus posing a food safety issue when horsemeat from the US is entered in the human food chain. Food Safety News published an article in 2012 addressing this issue, citing an HSUS case filed with the USDA and FDA with 115 dangerous and toxic substances routinely given to American horses.
The Bureau of Land Management has a target population level of 3,725-3,795 (depending on the BLM page you read) wild horses for the entire state. State lawmakers are asking the federal government to bring the horses down to this number EVEN if it means killing them all to get to that number. According to BLM in 2022 there were a total of 4,734 wild horses in the state.
These target populations (called appropriate management level AML) are arbitrarily created, not founded in science numbers that BLM came up with claiming there were only 25,000 wild horses in the west in 1971 so there can only be 27,000 wild horses on the western range now to be in balance with other wildlife and livestock. HOWEVER, in a research paper (pgs. 4 - 6) and the Addendum to that paper, done by OWHO Board President, Theresa Barbour we found that BLM knows this is a lie. We found several instances where BLM testified in court, and to Congress that this population estimate from 1971 is inaccurate. All these resources we found of other statements support the fact that there was a population size much larger than the number BLM now uses to support the national AML of 27,000 wild horses. The continuation of this inaccurate number is a violation of USC Title 18, lying to the Congress and the American people.
Wyoming State Republicans, Representative John Winter, Representative Albert Sommers and Senator Ogden Driskill all signed a bill in the WY state legislature asking the federal government to slaughter American wild horses making claims that our wild horses are not an indigenous (native) species. Scientists Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick and Dr. Ross MacPhee beg to differ.
You can watch a talk Dr. MacPhee gave on this topic here.
“Wildlife should never be considered a burden to the interests of industry – especially by the people charged with their protection.” - Defenders of Wildlife
“At the outset, it is important to note that wild horses and burros are no less “wild” animals than are the grizzly bears that roam our national parks and forests." - Mountain States v Hodel (a WY case)
These rancher lawmakers do not discuss the damage that over one million non-native cows are doing but continue the typical practice of scapegoating under 5 thousand wild horses for the damage of the private profit making cows.
Driskill said. “Much of it is [occurring] in environmentally fragile country that doesn’t recover quickly from overgrazing.” We agree this area is fragile and doesn't recover well from overgrazing. Perhaps Mr. Driskill (member of the WY Stockgrowers Association) needs to consider the damage of the over one million cattle on this land that are the real cause of overgrazing in his state.
“I’ll tell you, there are just too many horses,” Winter said. “They’re affecting sage grouse and other wildlife, and it’s ruining the range.” Mr. Winter who is a rancher, outfitter etc, and clearly has a bias and conflict of interest might want to look outside the bubble he resides in.
"Returning to sage grouse and wild horses, there is a shortage of valid science. Wild horses are seldom considered “wildlife,” and thus don’t get research attention from wildlife management institutes. Because they are not “livestock,” they are neglected by range management programs. The best scientific resource on the topic is a 2011 literature review. Scientific articles have published since, but are often tainted by bias. An article on the impacts of horses and cattle on riparian habitats in Idaho commits the cardinal scientific sin of failing to sample at random locations, instead identifying study sites based on recommendations from the Bureau and ranchers, a sure way to introduce anti-horse and pro-livestock bias. This study’s data is therefore statistically invalid. A study by Coates and others asserting that horse populations above AML were correlates with sage grouse declines has been widely derided for ignoring the conflated impacts of livestock on the same habitats, and for basing the data on AMLs, known to be unscientific. Another Coates study purporting to show wild horse displacement of breeding sage grouse at leks suffers from a ridiculously small sample size (only 9 of 255 lek observations had any wild horses at all) and overlapping confidence intervals, indicating that wild horses make no significant difference to breeding grouse, at least at these small sample sizes. We need rigorous, independent science free from the bias and spin that seems to pervade much of today’s wild horse research."
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reported in their article: "Interior Wild Horse Focus Ignores Cattle Impacts: BLM’s Scientific “Cow Blindness” Impedes Sage Grouse Recovery" disagrees with the scapegoating of horses to determine sage grouse damages. "USGS and BLM have put on scientific blinders when it comes to public lands grazing,” stated PEER Special Projects Manager Kirsten Stade, noting that cows outnumber wild horses on BLM lands by a ratio of more than 30 to 1." This was in response to a highly-publicized U.S. Geological Survey study that was released in 2021 stating that wild horses adversely affect sage grouse habitat. That study continues to be used by the BLM to justify removing thousands of wild horses from our public lands.
The PEER article goes on to state:
"While the agency scapegoats wild horses for habitat degradation, its data reveal that most of the allotments within Wild Horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs) that fail its standards for rangeland health — approximately 11.5 million acres of the 21.5 million acres of allotments within HMAs assessed by BLM to date — identify livestock as a significant cause of that failure; Livestock are by far the most frequently identified cause of allotment failure to meet standards for quality of water, vegetation, and soils, as well as the ability to support wildlife nationwide, including for allotments within HMAs. More than 40 million acres, including 15 million acres of priority sage-grouse habitat of BLM lands across the west fail to meet these standards due to overgrazing by livestock;
Of the almost 22 million acres of HMA area within allotments that BLM has assessed, only a tiny fraction–just 1% or 311,000 acres–has been identified as failing standards due to wild horses alone, with no mention of livestock"
"...more than 6 million acres, many of which provide crucial habitat for the at-risk sage grouse, are failing because of livestock."
The article goes on to say:
“The data is pretty clear and one-sided,” said Chad Hanson, director of the Wyoming Mustang Institute. “It’s livestock that do the lion’s share of damage to public land. But the agency’s choice, especially in the last two years, has been to remove wild horses from public land as a way to compensate for the damage done by livestock.”
Winter said in the WyoFile article: “Right now we’re sending horses to these feedlots,”... “and that’s costing the taxpayer over $77 million a year — and that’s unacceptable.” We agree that it is unacceptable for this federal agency, tasked with the protection of this legally protected wildlife species, costing the American taxpayer $77 million dollars. These animals should be managed on the range where they belong and evolved for over 56 million years. If there weren’t so many non-native introduced animals (NNIA) that are part of private, for-profit business operations on our public lands, perhaps there would be room for our publicly owned wild horses.
This article, and the WY State Legislature’s Joint Resolution are not what the American people overwhelmingly support.
- This article supports a group of lawmakers who would restart the slaughter of our American horses in this country or ship tainted meat to other countries for human consumption.
- This article supports decades of the Bureau of Land Management and the livestock industry using wild horses to cover up the damage done by the cattle that vastly outnumber wild horses on our public lands.
- This article supports the theory that our wild horses are not native, a theory that science refutes.
- This article supports BLM’s lies to the American public and Congress that there were only 25,000 wild horses in 1971 and therefore there should only be 27,000 wild horses on the land.
- This article supports the wishes of a small and decreasing population of ranchers that wish to continue using our public lands for profits and to do that kick-off these native, publicly owned native and wild sentient beings.
- This article supports slaughter over proper on-range management to decrease the $77 million budget to warehouse wild horses off public lands so that NNIA (non-native introduced animals) can be raised on taxpayer funded public lands.
WyoFile has in the past presented both sides of this issue, and we hope they will present our side of this issue now.
1. Wyofile: "Resolution calls for gathering, slaughter of wild horses for meat";
2. HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. HJ0003; https://wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2023/HJ0003
3. ASPCA Poll; https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/new-research-shows-overwhelming-majority-americans-oppose-horse-slaughter
4. Food Safety News; "Horse Slaughter Sides Agree on Food Safety Problem"; By Dan Flynn on July 2, 2012; https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/07/horse-slaughter-sides-agree-on-food-safety-problem/
5. WYOMING HERD MANAGEMENT AREAS; https://www.blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/herd-management/herd-management-areas/wyoming
6. PROGRAM DATA; https://www.blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/about-the-program/program-data
7. "RELABELING OF ACREAGE CREATED THE OVERPOPULATION MYTH OF WILD HORSES & BURROS"; https://www.academia.edu/78077330/RELABELING_OF_ACREAGE_CREATED_THE_OVERPOPULATION_MYTH_OF_WILD_HORSES_and_BURROS
8. "Addendum to Relabeling of Acreage Created the Overpopulation Myth of Wild Horses & Burros"; https://www.academia.edu/95178861/Addendum_to_Relabeling_of_Acreage_Created_the_Overpopulation_Myth_of_Wild_Horses_and_Burros
9. "Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife"; Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick; https://awionline.org/content/wild-horses-native-north-american-wildlife
10. "The Wild Horse is Native to North America"; Dr. Ross MacPhee; https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59f8c99ff09ca4e7c237d467/t/5a0f1c4a71c10bcd43005cc8/1510939723771/The+Wild+Horse+is+Native+to+North+America.pdf
11. Video; Dr Ross MacPhee Presentation at the Save Our Wild Horses 2022 DC Conference; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxcQzEZfO9w
12. "Molvar: Sage Grouse, science and horsefeathers"; Erik Molvar Dec 25, 2021 Updated Jan 30, 2022; https://trib.com/opinion/columns/molvar-sage-grouse-science-and-horsefeathers/article_adb48e4e-2cb1-5f1d-851b-e7f6f291c39f.html
13. "Interior Wild Horse Focus Ignores Cattle Impacts: BLM’s Scientific “Cow Blindness” Impedes Sage Grouse Recovery"; PEER; https://peer.org/interior-wild-horse-focus-ignores-cattle-impacts/
14. "Report: Livestock, not wild horses, have degraded public lands"; Nicole Pollack Nov 19, 2022 Updated Dec 25, 2022; https://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/report-livestock-not-wild-horses-have-degraded-public-lands/