Press Release

Debate Scheduled Between Wild Horse Advocate and Nevada State Senator on Wild Horses in the West

Wild horse campaigner Scott Beckstead will face off against Senator Ira Hansen in The Dust-Up in the Desert: A Debate on Wild Horses and Their Place on Our Public Lands

Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns for Animal Wellness Action and Center for a Humane Economy, will face off against Nevada State Senator Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) in a debate over the wild horses in the West. The debate is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on September 7 at the Elko Convention Center in Elko, Nevada.

Beckstead issued a challenge to debate the senator during one of his weekly “Wild Horse Wins-Day” videos over Sen. Hansen’s claims that an overpopulation of wild horses is causing, in the senator’s words, an “ecological catastrophe.” Beckstead invited the senator to name the time, place, and platform for the debate; less than two days later, Sen. Hansen posted his own video accepting the challenge. In his debate acceptance, Hansen stated that he would provide actual evidence to support his “ecological catastrophe” allegation.

The moderator-hosted debate, called The Dust-Up in the Desert: A Debate on Wild Horses and Their Place on Our Public Lands, will provide each side with time for main arguments, rebuttals, and opportunity to pose questions and challenges to the other.


Media are invited to attend the virtual attend. They and the public may register via this link.


Nevada is home to over half of the wild horse and burro population living on public lands in the American West. The Bureau of Land Management, charged with managing the animals under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, recently conducted a helicopter roundup of over 3,000 animals living in the Antelope Complex of wild horse Herd Management Areas in eastern Nevada, not far from where the debate will take place. At least 31 horses lost their lives during the operation, including many foals who succumbed after being chased for miles in searing summer temperatures. One especially shocking incident involved a stallion who snapped his back leg jumping out of a BLM trap and was then chased by helicopter and a mounted horseman contracted by the BLM for 35 minutes before he was shot and killed. Other animals similarly broke their necks and limbs or succumbed to exhaustion after being pursued to their deaths by the helicopters.

During this year’s session of the Nevada legislature, Hansen led the opposition to SB 90, a bill that originated from schoolchildren in Carson Valley that would have designated the mustang as Nevada’s official state horse. In his testimony opposing the bill, Hansen stated, “I, too, am a horse lover, but I oppose Senate Bill No. 90. For those of us who represent the rural areas of the state, the wild horse population, right now, is a disaster.”

For his part, Beckstead has spoken and written extensively about the wild horse and burro issue, and his “Wild Horse Wins-Day” videos, posted every Wednesday, have attracted a growing audience. He maintains that the Bureau of Land Management has scapegoated wild equids for overgrazing that is in fact caused by commercial cattle and sheep, which greatly outnumber wild horses on designated wild-horse Herd Management Areas.

“I appreciate that Senator Hansen accepted my challenge and I look forward to making my case that wild horses, far from being overpopulated, are being unfairly cast as the ‘bad guy’ for the harm to the range caused by hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep grazing on desert lands in Nevada,” he said. “This public debate will be a perfect opportunity to show how our tax dollars are being used to subject these beloved American icons to cruelty and mistreatment at the behest of the livestock industry, which seeks to clear them from the range to make more forage available to animals that were never meant to roam the desert in such large populations.”

Following the debate, a video of it will be posted on the Animal Wellness Action YouTube channel.

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