Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary and Preservation board member Robert Redford this week expressed hope that the Bureau of Land Management and Congress will heed the public’s outcry and embrace humane alternatives, both on and off the range, over the Advisory Board’s recommendation to euthanize 45,000 captive wild horses and burros in long-term holding pastures.
“Americans have an unwavering bond with the descendants of the horses and burros that have helped build our country and shape our culture – a bond enshrined in The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act 45 years ago,” Redford said. “After decades of investing millions of tax dollars for the protection of wild horses after their capture and removal from the range, destroying them would be the ultimate betrayal, especially when humane alternatives have long been available.”
On Sept. 9 in Elko, Nevada, the Advisory Board voted to urge BLM “to follow the stipulations of the Wild Horse and Burro Act by offering all suitable animals in long- and short-term holding deemed unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia. Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible.”
The independent Advisory Board is empowered to make recommendations to BLM, not direct its actions, yet the public responded swiftly and emphatically. In response, BLM on Sept. 14 announced that it would continue caring for the more than 45,000 wild horses and burros off-range corrals and pastures and that it would not sell or send animals to slaughter.
While pleased by BLM’s recognition of the public’s wishes, Return to Freedom will continue to press the agency and Congress to ensure not only that euthanasia remains off the table, but that BLM refocuses its wild horse management on proven, humane methods that can be implemented on the range and provide an aggressive timeline for implementing those changes, said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom.
DeMayo urged wild horse supporters to remain vigilant about the lifting of restrictions on sales or adoptions and any proposals that would enable the transfer of wild horses and burros to other government agencies without assurances that they would receive humane treatment during and after service.
In the days since the vote, for instance, little attention has been paid to the rest of that same Advisory Board recommendation: “…offering all suitable animals in long- and short-term holding deemed un-adoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia.” If enacted, such a change would be a death sentence for captive wild horses and burros, many of which would surely be purchased by kill buyers then trucked to foreign slaughterhouses.
“It is way overdue for the Bureau of Land Management to develop a proud vision for the preservation of America’s wild horses and burros,” DeMayo said. “To destroy these horses would be even more irresponsible than the crisis created by the agency over the past 30 years by stalling proposals to humanely manage wild horse populations on the range.”
Return to Freedom advocates for minimally intrusive on the range management using proven, safe and humane fertility control in combination with other alternatives like relocation, range stewardship and incentives for ranchers who reduce or forego livestock grazing in designated wild horse Herd Management Areas.
Return to Freedom stands ready to assist with responsible, minimally invasive management both on and off the range, DeMayo said: “RTF has 18 years of successful, practical experience in the humane management of wild horses and burros, including the use of fertility vaccines, both at its sanctuaries and in ongoing projects with private landowners through our Wild Horse Conservator Program.”
About Return to Freedom
Founded in 1997, Lompoc, Calif.-based Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity, and habitat of America’s wild horses and burros through sanctuary, education, advocacy and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world. www.returntofreedom.org
Contact: Cory Golden, (805) 737-9246, or Neda DeMayo, (805) 588-5105