Press Release

Wild Horse Protection Leaders Release Film Urging President Biden to Stop Roundup of Iconic Onaqui Herd Ahead of D.C. Rally Friday

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Animal Wellness Action and The Wild Beauty Foundation released a short film produced by Ashley Avis, the director of Disney’s 2020 film “Black Beauty” urgently pleading with President Joe Biden to intercede and stop the cruel helicopter roundup of the popular and beloved Onaqui wild horse herd in western Utah. The film precedes a “Wild Horse and Burro Freedom Rally” to be held on Friday, July 9th, at 10:00 a.m. near the White House as a last resort to raise public awareness of the plight of the wild horses, who face a devastating BLM operation beginning July 11th that will send the majority of the herd to an uncertain future, including the possibility of slaughter in foreign meat plants.

The Washington, D.C. event follows a rally the groups held with actress Katherine Heigl, the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, the Cloud Foundation, and Red Bird’s Trust, on the steps of the Utah state capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah last Friday. Following the rally, leaders from the event traveled to the Great Basin Desert west of Salt Lake City, home to the Onaqui horses, and there documented with photos and video the healthy condition of the horses and the abundant forage, contradicting the Bureau of Land Management’s false narrative that the horses are overpopulated, starving, and destroying the vast Onaqui range.

Numerous leaders of the groups involved will speak to rally attendees on Friday. Press should plan to arrive at the event at 10:00 a.m.; protestors should plan to arrive at 9:45 and meet in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church at 1525 H Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20005.

“This is our last chance to save these iconic horses,” said Ashley Avis, director of Disney’s Black Beauty film and president of The Wild Beauty Foundation.  “The Onaqui are arguably the most famous herd in the entire country.  If you have children, or a family, and you want to see wild horses in the wild— you may likely go here.  But if something isn’t done now, instead of wild horses— living symbols of freedom galloping across the plains— we will see livestock in their place.  Wild horses cannot be lost to history.  Please, President Biden, intercede.”

“President Biden can either go down in history as the man who saved the Onaqui or the man who let them be rounded up by helicopter chase, purged from their home, and doomed them with a one-way ticket to slaughter in Mexico or Canada,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, and one of The Hill’s Top Lobbyists for 2019 and 2020, who was recently honored by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect horses. “We are so grateful for the tremendous work of Ashley Avis, Winterstone Pictures, and The Wild Beauty Foundation on this film that will be displayed Friday on a giant billboard truck with screen near the White House and National Mall.”

“With thousands upon thousands of calls and emails to the BLM, Congress, and President Biden, the American people have spoken overwhelmingly in support of the federally-protected Onaqui horses,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for the Center for A Humane Economy. “In its arrogance, the BLM has thus far ignored the public’s will and instead is bent on appeasing commercial livestock grazers. It will fall upon our president to step in and do the right thing to protect these American icons, but he must do so quickly before the helicopters take to the desert sky.”


Descended from horses used by pioneers and native tribes in the late 1800’s, the Onaqui horses are known for their robust beauty and their ability to thrive in the harsh environment of the Great Basin Desert of western Utah. They are a favorite among wild horse photographers and enthusiasts and are believed to be the most popular and photographed wild herd in the country. Tourists from all over the country, and even the world, travel to Utah to view and photograph their favorite animals, including stallions with names like Charger, Goliath, Buck, Moondrinker, with glimpses of the herd’s elder statesman, Gandalf (also known as “Old Man” by some), being the most coveted prize.

But the Onaqui horses are facing a grim future. On July 12, the BLM will use helicopters to chase, trap, and remove most of them from their home range on Utah’s Great Basin Desert. Helicopter roundups of wild horses are notorious for their cruelty and the suffering they inflict on the animals. Horses will be chased for miles in the summer heat to the point of utter exhaustion, and some will sustain injuries or even be killed. There are new foals and elderly horses in the herd who will be in jeopardy of being left behind, wounded, or even killed during the terror, chaos, and confusion of the stampede into the traps. From there the horses will lose the two things that mean the most to them – their families and their freedom. They will be shipped by truck to BLM corrals where they will languish in barren feedlot conditions, awaiting an uncertain future. After being sorted and separated, the BLM will offer the animals for adoption, a process that poses a grave threat to their lives, as it has been recently reported that the BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program is sending horses to their deaths in foreign slaughter plants.

The BLM claims there is insufficient forage for the horses on their HMA, yet the agency has allocated wild horses only between 9 and 15 percent of the resources on public lands, while livestock are allocated between 85 and 91 percent. Livestock greatly outnumber the horses currently on the HMA, yet the agency has announced no plans to reduce or eliminate private grazing, and continues to follow the direction of a diabolical plan misleadingly deemed the “Path Forward,” that calls for the roundup and eradication of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros on federal lands at a cost of up to $5 billion to the American tax-payer, according to the most recent Acting Director of the BLM.

The roundups are also planned for tens of thousands of wild horse and burro herds across the western United States, as the BLM heeds the wishes of the livestock industry and scrambles to remove as many wild equines as possible. Unless that is, they are stopped.

In April, a coalition of more than 70 groups sent a letter to Secretary Haaland calling for a freeze on grazing permits and an elimination of livestock grazing on all wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas. There has been no response from Haaland despite the media contacting the Secretary’s Office and the White House, who declined to comment.

The lack of response from the Biden Administration, combined with Haaland’s testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on April 20th that the Dept. of Interior is “in agreement with the plan of the previous Administration,” prompted a second letter in May directly to the President himself. Signed by more than 90 groups, rescues, and businesses, and more than 1,100 individuals, the letter called for Biden to immediately place a moratorium on the mass helicopter roundups. There has since been no response from the White House.

Visit the campaign website at for more details on the rally.

Advocates can also contact here with further questions or comments.

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News

Animal Wellness Foundation is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.