Washington, D.C. – Today, Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF), the Center for a Humane Economy, and the Wild Beauty Foundation marked the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Act) by calling for legislative reform to end high-stress and inhumane helicopter roundups, reduce livestock densities on our public lands so that horses and burros can remain on habitats designed for them, and assure that wild horses and burros removed from our public lands are not funneled into the horse slaughter pipeline.
Congress voted unanimously to support the Act after hearing from millions of Americans who were outraged by ruthless depopulation efforts in the West, including commercial killing of the animals for pet food. Now, 50 years later, the agency charged by Congress to humanely manage the animals on our public lands is engaging in a present-day depopulation effort.
Acting on the false pretext of “emergency conditions,” the Bureau of Land Management has embarked on a campaign to clear western rangelands of protected wild horses and burros to make room for millions of commercial livestock, in violation of the spirit of the Act. The campaign has sent thousands of horses into bleak feedlot conditions in BLM holding corrals, hundreds of horses have been injured and killed, foals have been separated and orphaned, and families have been forcibly separated.
“The sheer scale of the suffering is almost unfathomable, yet Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland has done nothing to restrain these round-ups,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action. ”Managing herd growth through fertility control is far less expensive and doesn’t involve gratuitous government pay-outs to livestock companies, holding facility contractors, and helicopter companies to conduct their massive gathers of equids.”
“The Bureau of Land Management should be commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act by celebrating our wild herds, not persecuting them,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, and an 8-time world champion equestrian. “Our iconic American equines deserve better than to be rounded up by helicopter chase, incarcerated, and ripped from their families on the American taxpayers’ dime.”
“We have been fortunate to traverse the vast American west for the past four years with our film crew, capturing the stunning beauty of wild horses and their closely bonded families,” said Ashley Avis, director of Disney’s Black Beauty and founder of the Wild Beauty Foundation. “We have also borne witness to the cruelty of helicopter roundups, and the campaign of shocking misinformation by the Bureau of Land Management. On this 50th anniversary of the law to protect wild horses and burros for generations to come, my great hope is a new wave of awareness will force this law to finally be honored, instead of uniformly ignored and flippantly broken.”
Those interested in showing support for the wild horses and burros should call their members of Congress, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, and President Joe Biden, to urge them to stop the helicopter roundups and restore the wild horses and burros to their rightful place on our public lands.
Animal Wellness Action has provided a tool kit for media and advocates with share graphics and press information here and the Wild Beauty Foundation has provided a short film produced by Ashley Avis, the director of Disney’s 2020 ‘Black Beauty’ film that can be downloaded and shared on media and social media platforms here.