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A Biologist’s View on Wild Horse and Burro Fake News

Commentary by Robert Bauer

“…any devastation of western rangelands, is due rather to an overpopulation of cattle, which have been found to outnumber the wild horses 100 to 1…”

photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

As a biologist, I have been involved in documenting the issues concerning this nation’s wild horses for years, along with many others. While keeping in mind the emotional effect that the wild horses have on millions, both in a negative and positive way, I have also devoted myself to understanding and communicating, from an objective and scientific standpoint, the truth about wild equine. Nature has proven herself to be able to maintain a thriving natural ecological balance, untouched and unmanaged, if allowed, without artificial intervention by mankind. This, also incorporates this nation’s wild horses. Wild horses and burros are not overpopulated as many have attested, nor are they a detriment, but rather an overwhelming benefit. On our western rangelands, indeed, any devastation of western rangelands, is due rather to an overpopulation of cattle, which have been found to outnumber the wild horses 100 to 1.

Photographic evidence has shown that the grazing habits of cattle, coupled with their physiological makeup, has caused an uprooting of vegetation, as well as the destruction of riparian habitats and other water sites. This in turn has had a destructive effect on wildlife, including the wild horses who use these same natural resources. The positive effects of wild horses on our western rangelands can be understood by reflecting on these following truths.

1. It must be realized that nature through its own mechanisms is fully able to maintain natural ecological balance, without human intervention. It does this through physiological differences, found within each species inside any given ecosystem. Each of those differences, contribute as a vital factor in a broad ecological equation, allowing each species, including wild equine to fill a vital niche in the balance of nature. It also accomplishes this through the numbers or density of any given species of animal or plant within that system, in conjunction with competitive species, and the carrying capacity of the land. Sterilization and or contraceptives have been proposed to check wild equine population growth disregarding the presence of its predators, natural environmental factors, and competitive grazers. Natural predation and environmental impacts are vital in regulating the numbers of ungulates and ruminants alike in any given area. Density dependent inhibition, however, must not be ruled out and plays an important role as well. In this scenario, the numbers or density of wild equine, versus competing ruminants, as the pronghorn antelope, will each fluctuate in response to the other based upon the carrying capacity of the land, yet always in perfect balance. The Pronghorn and other ruminants, therefore, need the presence of wild horses and burros and vice versa. Each population will have the effect of keeping the numbers of another competing population at levels that are ideal for the carrying capacity of the land. As an added note, it is deep in my heart to convey the truth that nature through its own mechanisms is fully able to maintain natural ecological balance, without human intervention to adjust it, even though it is necessary to monitor nature, communicate those facts, for the purposes of adjusting mankind to accommodate nature so that it can be itself.

2. Within the physiological and behavioral makeup of the wild horses and burros, there also exist what could be called self-regulating mechanisms. These mechanisms serve to govern reproduction and subsequent population growth or the lack thereof. An increase in the gestation period of wild horses, (delayed implantation), and spontaneous abortion come into play during periods of environmental stress within a system, as well as selective breeding by a stallion within a band, if indeed the stallion breeds at all. In short, environmental stress has the overall effect of limiting reproduction. Added to this are annual mortality rates established in a NAS study which range between 14% to 50% in wild horses up to 1 year, and 5% to 25% for horses older than this. These above mechanisms do, indeed maintain the proper density of wild horses in any given area, perfectly, in balance with competitive grazers and predators. It does this without sterilization, without the PZP contraceptive, and without roundups. It therefore establishes at any given time, nature’s own appropriate management levels, levels which nature adjusts continually, based on the above biological factors.

3. Also, what must be understood is that nature is dynamic, and not static. This infers that it continuously fluctuates and adjusts itself, through its own feedback loops, from the molecular, all the way up the scale of organisms. Because it is dynamic and not static means that its functions cannot be confined to finite thinking, and fixed statistics but must be allowed, through its own mechanisms to maintain itself, hands off, so to speak. In other words, nature cannot be limited at any given time to a given number, or average of numbers, that mankind deems appropriate. An example of this is the Bureau of Land Management’s, “Appropriate Management Level”, of wild horses in their legally designated lands. Mankind’s sole responsibility must be focused on keeping the restrictions off nature, so that nature can be itself, and not an offspring of man’s seemingly brilliance. The moment mankind seeks to alter nature according to a fixed number, or an average of numbers, is the moment that nature and balance itself begins to break down. At first it occurs little by little, yet as artificial alteration persists, the breakdowns become greater and greater. This has occurred in every branch of nature, where mankind has endeavored to manage natural balance, assuming nature to be static and not dynamic.

4. Another issue that must be considered is that the numbers of the wild horses remaining in the wild are not even in the teens of thousands anymore, contrary to the assertions to the contrary. This statement may seem bold yet is based upon Bureau of Land Management statistics, factoring in reproduction, PZP, adjustment of sex ratios, and the thousands of wild horses and burros that have been continually removed. Factored in also, are mortality rates, already mentioned above, both first year and adult, that nature herself applies. These issues combined, have driven numbers in most areas out west down to levels where genetic viability has been compromised and far below total numbers that the BLM have stated as still existing in the wild. Also, with continued use of the PZP contraceptive, population growth will be driven down even further. Reproduction will continue to decrease dramatically because of PZP, but mortality percentages will remain the same. With the use of the contraceptives, or sterilization methods, therefore, mortality will completely overwhelm reproduction, accelerating population decline in our wild equine.

5. It is said by some that because of the vast removals, nature compensates with a population explosion of wild horses, serving to reinforce the elevated population claims. Incorporated into this thought, are low levels of predators, in many areas. It must be remembered, however, that the varied mechanisms of ecological balance do not work independently of each other, but always in concert. Where one mechanism may lack, as the predators, other facets of balance will engage more vigorously yet always governed by the carrying capacity of the land. Predator, Prey studies and statistics have consistently affirmed that predator numbers and prey numbers follow each other. Simply speaking, when prey numbers are high, nature compensated by increased numbers of predator species. The opposite is true also. When predator species decrease, density dependent inhibition engages more vigorously, causing the prey species, in this case wild horses, to reach a limit based upon the carrying capacity of the land, and then decrease in number. Equine mortality on the range, as mentioned above is shown to be very high in the first year of life, not to mention adult mortality, again not all by predators. This and common sense reproductive facts of wild horses, oppose every allegation of population explosions in wild horses.

6. The free roaming habits and social behavior of the wild horses and burros, allow them to harmoniously coexist with every competing ruminant. Their physiological makeup coupled with continual movements have a revitalizing effect on soil and vegetation. This in turn positively impacts other grazers, and subsequently predators as well, who prey upon them. The presence of wild equine in a multitude of ecosystems has proven to result in a beneficial cascade effect, rejuvenating entire areas where they have been reintroduced, both in terms of flora and fauna. This has been documented in many geographical locations throughout the world. Noting these indisputable facts, the wild horses and burros can without question be considered a keystone species. Removing our native equine from their legally designated areas and or tampering with their numbers has and will continue to have a reverse and detrimental effect on our western rangelands.

Conclusion. The answer to ecological balance, therefore, in our western ranges doesn’t lie in experimentation, sterilizations, contraceptives, adjustment of ratios, the institution of removals, or mass euthanasia. The answer lies in the termination of all roundups and a release of the wild horses and burros, in holding facilities, back into the areas from where they were taken. All that is necessary for a “Thriving Natural Ecological Balance”, is to keep the restrictions off nature, and allow her to regulate herself untouched.

The wild horses and burros will continue as the powerful symbol of this nation’s freedom, yet vital components of ecological balance if, and only if, we allow nature alone, through its own dynamic methods to dictate the numbers in the wild that are to exist, at any given time.

Robert C. Bauer

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Trump administration’s solution to the wild mustangs on public lands is round up & slaughter

Justin Sullivan/Getty


Trump’s Cowboy Allies Say All the Pretty Horses Must Die

The Trump administration’s solution to the problem of overbreeding mustangs on public lands is round up and slaughter, but this ignores more benign solutions.

On the day I visited the wild horses of Onaqui, in northern Utah near the Nevada border. The band stallions, with ears back and heads low, chased off the itinerant males who dared approach their harems.   This was a herd with room to move and enough grass to eat and water to drink. That it was being treated with a degree of respect was due in no small part to the work of Gus Warr, a wild horse specialist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, a branch of the Department of the Interior, which oversees horses that range on the public lands. Warr had implemented an experimental fertility control program in the Onaqui herd, because otherwise the animals, without predators to control their numbers, would overpopulate and wreck the ecosystems of the Utah desert.

The program involved darting the animals with a contraceptive called PZP. At Onaqui, I watched Warr’s employees dart mares using air-powered blow guns. The mares jumped as if stung by a bee, the dart fell out, the shooter went to retrieve it.   That was the extent of the program. It cost about $24 a dose, and the typical mare, otherwise going about her business—PZP is non-hormonal, an immunocontraceptive, and does not affect behavior—wouldn’t be able to conceive for a year. Since the program began in 2015, the Onaqui population had stabilized.

In Nevada, Warr’s colleagues at BLM had dismissed fertility control as a political and practical impossibility and taken a brutish approach to wild horses. The animals, once they had expanded to an unacceptable number in their selected “herd management areas,” were periodically rounded-up, forced into tractor trailers, and trucked across the desert to holding facilities from which they would likely never leave.

I watched a series of videos of round-ups in Nevada taken by a horse advocate named Laura Leigh, who runs a nonprofit in Reno called Wild Horse Education. The animals were chased by helicopters, forced into corrals, sorted. One horse was smashed in the ass with the skids of the helicopter. Another, panicked by the relentless pursuit, crashed into a barbed wire fence. A foal was chased until its hooves fell off (it later died). The wranglers hired by the BLM kicked the corralled horses with their boots and shocked them with electric prods.

Leigh was so moved by the sight of that foal that had lost its hooves that she did something which, for her at the time, was out of character. In 2010, she filed a lawsuit in federal court to protest the violence and demand its end. When she saw her name on the final draft of the complaint, she vomited. Her father had been a cop, her grandfather had been a soldier in two wars. Her family, conservative, law-and-order types, weren’t the kind of people who litigate against the U.S. government. She spent five years on that case, and in 2015 she won. The BLM was now required for the first time—on paper at least—to adopt humane handling policies in its round-ups.

It was Leigh who had invited me to Onaqui. “Healthy behavior, just beautiful,” she said as we stood amid the herd. “Happy and free. Fucking and fighting.” Leigh is 49, but looks younger. She has long flaming-red hair and a habit of talking fast, lapsing into a New Jersey accent, a jarring accent in the American West.

Her quick mind probably had something to do with her success in court. Since founding Wild Horse Education in 2011, she had filed more than a dozen successful lawsuits against the Department of the Interior and the state of Nevada over wild horse policies, including a landmark First Amendment case that forced the federal government to open wild horse round-ups to press access. A federal judge in 2013 declared her “the most knowledgeable journalist on wild horses in the world.” In a single year, she logged 112,000 miles on her truck crisscrossing western states to document round-ups. The Nevada Historical Society was so impressed they asked to paint her portrait, which was hung in 2016 in the society’s museum in Reno.

Leigh admitted it was a kind of therapy to be with a herd that wasn’t persecuted. She had been through a lot in her life. She had spent her teens in a New Jersey ghetto, among gangs and bloodshed, the Irish and Italians at each other’s throats. When she was 26, her husband shot her in the stomach. There was a second marriage from which she escaped homeless and broke. There were two children she raised alone.  For a while she was a professional body-builder. She cage-danced at discos. She appeared in Penthouse and Muscle, modeled shoes for Donna Karan, posed for a Marvel Comics artist as the musculature of Red Sonja. There was a car accident at 34 that left her, for several seconds, clinically dead. And then breast cancer a few years later, after she moved to Nevada. She thought it ironic to be stricken in Nevada, the place that with its horses had drawn her out of the mess of life back East.

When I first contacted her in 2015, she had undergone the last of eight surgeries. For a while her breast had been like a bowling ball, and she had been taking her chemo treatments while camping in the back of a pick-up truck. When I met her at Onaqui in 2016, she was cancer-free for the first time in a long time. “It’s been the best year of my life,” she said. “I’m alive and I’m with the horses.”

The next day we drove to Nevada, which has the largest number of wild horses of any state—about 70 percent of the U.S. total—and which is now at the forefront of plans for a mass horse slaughter under Donald Trump.


The best film ever made about wild horses was The Misfits, which was released in 1961 to critical acclaim and box-office failure.  Arthur Miller, who wrote the script, based it on a short story he published in Esquire about Nevada cowboys who freelanced in the backcountry wrangling the obstinate animals and selling them to slaughterhouses that ground them up and marketed them as pet food and chicken feed. This practice, a long tradition in the West, was called mustanging, after the Spanish word for wild horse, mustengo, which means, variously, stray horse, ownerless beast, a beast that is the property of no one. Mustangers had other names for the horses. They called them range rats, range roaches.

Clark Gable is the mustanger in the film, an old busted cowboy on his last ride with a retinue of misfit buddies—lonely, unhappy alcoholics scarred by family deaths, bad gambles, hopeless desires. Naturally they all fall for Marilyn Monroe, a recent divorcee in Reno’s haven of broken marriages. The drama culminates when Gable and the guys, booze-sodden and reckless, show the golden girl what it means to be a man on the range in the outback of the horse basins. A plane piloted by one of Gable’s pals races out of the sky behind the maddened animals. Gable in the back of a speeding pickup ropes the horses, necklacing them with car tires, exhausting the beasts into collapse in the crushing summer heat.

Monroe in the end can’t take it. “Horse killers! Killers! Murderers! You’re liars! All of you, liars! You’re only happy when you can see something die! Why don’t you kill yourself to be happy? You and your God’s country! Freedom! I pity you!” And the old mustanger, moved beyond words, releases his captives. The physicality of the shoot was so extreme that Gable, in the last film of his career, suffered a heart attack and died days after the final scene wrapped.

That was 1961, the view from Hollywood. Mustanging came to an end ten years later because of the work of Velma Johnston, a rancher’s daughter from Reno who was aghast at the treatment of the animals. One day she found herself behind a truck of dying captured horses, their blood streaming from the flatbed, and it set her off.

In the ’50s, Wild Horse Annie, as Johnston came to be known, began a campaign of letter writing and lobbying that took decades to bear fruit. This was not an easy thing for a woman who was physically frail, deformed by childhood polio.

“Of all living things that have played their part in the development of this country,” she testified before Congress in 1959, “the horse has played the most prominent and beneficial role. The real need for his strength, speed, and endurance is passed, but as nothing else can, he portrays the West as all people like to think of it; he is a symbol of wild freedom to us all.”

When Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971, outlawing mustanging and protecting the ownerless beasts as “living symbols of  pioneer spirit,” the legislation was effectively written by Wild Horse Annie.

But the law failed to work as she had imagined, because Congress handed oversight to the Bureau of Land Management. There was no agency in the U.S. more inimical to wild horses. From its inception in 1946, the BLM, assigned to regulate huge stretches of the public domain in the West, had mostly served livestock interests. It was a cowboy-captured agency, its chief purpose to make grass available for cattlemen. In the grazing districts managed by the BLM, the district regulators were the sons, brothers, grandsons, cousins, or old friends of the ranchers they regulated.

Bernard Shanks, author of This Land Is Your Land, wrote about “BLM cowboys” who donned “rodeo belt buckles, western shirts complete with a can of Copenhagen in the pocket, well-worn cowboy boots,” and who deferred always to what Shanks called “the regional landed aristocracy.” The aristocrats, fattening their cattle on the public domain for private gain, did not cotton to the idea of sharing grass with horses, as Johnston’s law dictated. And they did not like that Johnston had outlawed mustanging: No more money from grinding the range rats into pet food. Johnston had committed the unforgiveable offense of taking away a piece of the ranchers’ livelihood, the horse as harvestable commodity on the range. Death threats followed her the rest of her life.

The BLM had to serve its cowboy constituency but at the same time appear in compliance with the 1971 law. As bureaucracies are wont to do, the agency conjured an army of acronyms to deal with the problem. It created “horse management areas” (HMAs), where the “free-roaming” animal lived in a not-so-free manner, behind blocks of fencing and at populations determined by a rubric called “appropriate management level,” or AML.

Appropriate management level is the number of horses that the BLM claims the range can sustain in terms of available grass and water. The National Academy of Sciences found in 2013 that the AML system has never been based in scientific understanding of the actual needs of the animals. AML is determined by the needs of cattlemen, because in every horse management area there are cattle, often by the thousands, vastly outnumbering horses. And the cattle are allotted the majority of the forage, leaving horses to survive on a pittance.

From the moment they were protected, the horses were never given a square deal on the landscape. Still, they have thrived, multiplying at a rate of 12 to 15 percent a year, because they are extraordinarily tough. Wild horses can drink water once a day and do well. They can eke out nutrition from a near-starvation diet. “They’re what in the horse world we call an easy-keeper,” Leigh said. “An Arabian requires oats, high-calorie hay, big sumptuous meals. Not these horses. These aren’t pampered little purebreds.”

Their numbers have gone up steadily, the population in the wild estimated today at between 45,000 and 70,000.  (According to the National Academy of Sciences, the BLM does not maintain accurate figures, as its horse survey methods have been flawed for decades.) With the growing population, new opportunities arose to make money. Barred from slaughtering the horses, the BLM created what Leigh called the “capture-and-hold industry.” When horses on the range surpass appropriate management level limits, the BLM hires private contractors for the lucrative work of rounding them up. In 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, the agency paid $8 million in fees to contractors conducting these round-ups. The big money, however, is in warehousing the horses post-round-up. The BLM in 2013 spent $38 million on private contractors that run holding facilities. These facilities included, for example, one owned by the J.R. Simplot Company in Idaho. J.R. Simplot, corporate rancher, potato king, supplier to McDonald’s for its French fries, Forbes’ 89th richest person in the United States upon his death in 2008, got his start mustanging as a young man and later pivoted into the business of horse holding.

The peculiar population dynamics in a constantly disturbed herd happens to benefit the capture-and-hold industry. Because animals are targeted at random in round-ups, the complex web of family and harem ties that regulate breeding is shattered.   The herd goes crazy with sex, reproduction rates jumping as much as 25 percent in the wake of roundups. More round-ups thus produce more horses—which necessitate more round-ups, and also more horses in holding, for a continual flow of cash to private contractors. It could be said that horses are managed now as a renewable crop of captives. Currently there are 60,000 animals in captivity.

In 2009, horse advocates, including Laura Leigh, proposed a broad fertility control program in Nevada similar to the experimental program at Onaqui. It would have involved darting tens of thousands of mares over a vast terrain for a period of several months—an enormously greater job to tackle than the 40 mares regularly darted at Onaqui.

Leigh suggested developing a pilot program among horses in a section of public land called Fish Creek, in the wild expanses of Nevada’s Eureka County. Fertility control in the Fish Creek Horse Management Area was briefly implemented and then shut down. No one in the business of wild horse management—not the contractors and not their friends in the BLM—wanted any working alternative to capture-and-hold.  As Leigh put it to me, “If I was allowed to show we can dart in a large population and in a few years we had populations stable? No multimillion-dollar industry.”

Cowboy corruptions

In April 2017, Leigh got a call from the office of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was curious about wild horse management in Nevada. “What are the issues facing horses there?” a staffer asked.

The first thing to understand about the situation in Nevada, Leigh replied, is the extent of the capture of the BLM by the livestock industry. “The BLM has been corrupted by cowboys,” she told the staffer. And the Nevada BLM was the most cowboy-corrupted of all.

Durbin was intrigued. But his committee assignments had him trapped in the daily chaos of the Trump administration with no time to spare, and he admitted as much.  Leigh then reached out to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Grijalva put her in touch with investigators at the House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC), where he is the senior ranking minority member, and said he would consider opening an inquiry into the politics of public land in Nevada.

Among the issues Leigh discussed with investigators was whether BLM officials in Nevada violated ethical codes by pressuring personnel at the behest of livestock ranchers. They were particularly interested in the story of a brave BLM employee named Doug Furtado, 47, the manager of the 10.5-million-acre Battle Mountain district in central Nevada. Leigh had gotten to know Furtado over her years of advocacy and while working as a volunteer at Battle Mountain, which oversees more wild horses than any other BLM district.  With Furtado’s help, she had attempted to put together the fertility control program in the Fish Creek HMA. Furtado “wanted to do the right thing at Fish Creek,” Leigh said. “He was one of the good guys. And BLM crushed him.”

I met Furtado in 2014 while on assignment for Harper’s Magazine. He did not look the part of the BLM cowboy. He wore a baseball cap and hiking boots and a goatee.  Harper’s had contracted me to write about the West’s cattle-beaten public lands, and Furtado was the only district manager in Nevada who would go on the record to discuss the problem. In the Battle Mountain district, two years of unprecedented drought and a surfeit of cows had resulted in a landscape of invasive weeds, dried up streams, soil eroding and turning to dust—what ecologists call a depauperate ecosystem.   As we drove together one day, Furtado shook his head at the sight. “No longer habitat for anything,” he said.

In 2014, Furtado had taken a hard stand against the livestock ranchers who held permits to graze in a section of the Battle Mountain district known as the Argenta, one of the areas worst-hit by the drought. Furtado demanded the Argenta permittees reduce the cow numbers to let the land recover. The permittees considered it an unconscionable move and refused to comply. They called for his firing. They held rallies at the BLM’s Battle Mountain office. They honked their horns outside Furtado’s home nearby, hurling curses. There was a petition at the local hardware store to “impeach” and “oust” him. There were physical threats.

Before meeting with Furtado, I visited his mentor at the BLM, Gerald Smith, who retired in the town of Battle Mountain after 35 years with the agency as a rangeland conservationist. Smith’s final post was manager of the Battle Mountain district until 2010, when Furtado took over.

Smith, like Furtado, was an outlier, and he had tangled repeatedly with pissed-off ranchers. “These folks in Battle Mountain, I swear to God, think they’re living a hundred years back,” he told me. “It’s ingrained that they think it’s their land, not the public’s, not the wildlife’s. And they really don’t give a rat’s ass about the conditions of the range.”

Smith had tried over the years to institute measurable limits on grazing, and had met with such fierce resistance that he had mostly failed to accomplish his goals.   He and Furtado like to hunt birds together in the uplands. “It’s bad these days,” Smith told me. “The birds can see you coming for 300 yards, there’s just no cover. I see deer that are starving because there’s no forage. This whole fight is about leaving something on the land for other creatures than cows.”

Battle Mountain is a small place, pop. 3,600, an isolated outpost in the desert. It has four bars, a brothel, and no stoplight. It bears the unfortunate title of “armpit of America,” a designation bestowed by a cruel joker journalist at the Washington Post.  In such a place, where the ranching culture dominates, the aloneness that Furtado felt was probably overwhelming. He worried about his hunting dogs, Brittany spaniels, as BLM employees in the past had seen their dogs poisoned by angry ranchers. He told Leigh that if something happened to him he wanted her to take the dogs.

The ranchers brought their plight to the local press, citing Mahatma Gandhi as the model of resistance. They organized a “grass march” that they said was a reprise of Gandhi’s Salt March of 1930. The imperial government in India had maintained a punishing monopoly on a vital resource, said the ranchers, and the BLM in Battle Mountain—by which they meant Doug Furtado—held the same monopoly on grass.

Leigh had some sense of what he was going through. “I meet a lot of people when I’m on the road with the horses, primarily the transients that work in the American oddity that is Nevada,” she told me. “There’s this one older guy who works for a mine near Battle Mountain who I’ve seen on and off over the years. He knows what I do and reads about me in the paper, sees me drive in with a jacked-up F250 and head into motels covered in dust carrying a camera.  He said something I thought was both funny and tragic, something like, ‘If you were a man you’d be a George Clooney of the range. You’d be sought after and listened to by everyone. But because you are a woman, you are just plain scary and people probably think you’re crazy.”

When she got cancer, in 2013, her children were grown and gone, and she was strapped for money, living out of hotel rooms and in her pickup. She had no one to help her. She did the radiation treatments, the surgeries. She wore a drain, a suction tube hanging out the bottom of her shirt, filling with blood and ooze. She refused to sit in bed. She wanted to be out on the range doing her job. The doctors warned her of the risk. In the summer of 2014, she collapsed in the desert from sepsis. Her kidneys shut down. She spent three weeks in recovery and then she was back out with the horses. The doctors came to agree with the old miner: she was crazy.

Furtado was one of the few people she had told about the cancer. “When I was diagnosed, he always called to ask how I was,” Leigh said. “When I had gotten out of my eighth surgery in two years and I was scared, afraid I wouldn’t wake up from the anesthesia, and I had told Furtado this, he said, ‘You’re going to be fine.’ It was a simple human kindness at a moment when I needed it. And he would call me when he was sitting at home and people drove by his house, honking and yelling. He felt trapped.”

The Argenta fight occurred at a fraught moment for the BLM, following the Cliven Bundy debacle that had unfolded during the spring of 2014. Bundy, a rancher in southern Nevada, had gathered around him several hundred armed militiamen who, on national television before a transfixed public, aimed their rifles at the BLM and forced the agency to abandon its attempted removal of his illegally grazing cattle.  The BLM wanted the trespassing animals removed for the same reason Furtado wanted the Argenta herds removed: their trampling hooves were wreaking havoc on fragile ecosystems. Federal law said the land’s health had as much importance as the stockmen’s permits to graze, and Furtado was set on following the law.

Targeting the Argenta ranchers, as Furtado was doing, raised fears in the BLM leadership of a similar armed uprising against the Battle Mountain office. And the Argenta ranchers had learned the obvious lesson from the Bundy affair: Terrorize the BLM, and the agency would stand down, effectively abandoning its duty to protect the public’s environmental interest on the public domain.

Leigh watched all this from the inside at Battle Mountain, working as a volunteer on the nascent fertility control program she was developing with Furtado. She told the congressional investigators it was a workplace of fear, anxiety, bewilderment. What this meant for the day-to-day operations of the office was that “you couldn’t get real work done,” she said. “Fertility control? Wild horses? Forget it. Making sure the range was healthy? Forget it. Doing your basic fucking job on the public lands?   Forget it.”

BLM would get one tip or another about potential violence, and Furtado would stalk the halls suspending regulatory activities because of the threats. There were “active shooter drills” to prepare employees in the event of militiamen breaking into the office with guns. Employees were trained to hide in designated “safe zones” if an intruder breached the facility. On some days, as the threats crescendoed, they weren’t to leave the office at all. It was a state of siege, and hunkering down was the imperative: new surveillance cameras were installed, new locks, key-card doors, boulders placed in the parking lot to stop vehicles ramming the place with explosives.

As in all sieges the people behind the walls broke down psychologically, physically. “I’m gonna go get a gallon of vodka and two straws,” an employee told Leigh one day. “Body postures changed,” Leigh told me. “Sloped shoulders, not looking you in the eye. People cranky, bickering. Sexual harassment complaints, hostile work environment complaints. The place turned into a piranha tank and people consumed each other. It was walking on egg shells all day, every day.”

Employees took as much sick leave as they could to get away. After Furtado’s second in command watched her teenage son ostracized viciously at school for his mother’s work at BLM, she gave two weeks’ notice and lit out for anywhere but Nevada.  Years earlier, an assistant manager at Battle Mountain, confronted with similar pressures, keeled over at her desk and died of a heart attack. Furtado was terrified it would happen to him. One day he had what Leigh described as a seizure. (The BLM Nevada office would not allow Furtado to talk to me on the record for this piece.) He had been readying paperwork, felt lightheaded, collapsed, smacked his head on a table on the way down, was rushed to the hospital. He called Leigh and told her he wished she was with him.

Finally, in late 2015, the higher-ups in the agency capitulated to the Argenta ranchers, who had mounted a campaign of such pressure on the state’s elected officials that they stepped into the fray to back their most important and vocal constituents. Amy Lueders, the BLM director in Nevada who had backed Furtado against the ranchers—and who had also backed Leigh’s fertility control program—was forced out. The new director, John Ruhs, was a creature of the cattlemen, a classic BLM cowboy, and looked the part, with his drooping Yosemite Sam mustache, his penchant for big hats and belt buckles, tight jeans, high-heeled boots, and flamboyant blouses. Ruhs publicly rebuked Furtado, humiliated him, forced him to reverse his position on the need for reduced cattle numbers in the Argenta. The cows would remain, regardless of the health of the land. As it had in the Bundy affair, the BLM had once again shown its true colors.

After that, Leigh said, Furtado changed. In order to keep his job, he became a cowed man. “Gone was this guy who was enthusiastic about trying to change things for the better,” she told me. “Gone was the honest conversation. It was like watching what happened to the horses: captured, abused, broken. It was as heartbreaking as watching a foal with its feet falling off.” And her work on fertility control at Battle Mountain? “Killed,” she said, “at the order of John Ruhs.”

‘A prostitute for livestock interests’

Rep. Grijalva’s office had also heard from Leigh about a flamboyant renegade livestock permittee in the Battle Mountain district named Kevin Borba. The cows on his allotment shared forage with the 400 horses in the Fish Creek Horse Management Area, the herd that Leigh had sought to target with fertility control. Borba was an avid supporter of Cliven Bundy and a fanatical YouTube preacher, railing at length against the BLM, Furtado, wild horses, fertility control, and Laura Leigh. He had reason to be angry. Furtado’s office had levied tens of thousands of dollars in fines against him for his running of trespass cattle.

BLM had also opened an investigation into his documented violations of federal law related to wild horses in the Fish Creek HMA. He had videoed himself on Facebook setting up water troughs to lure the horses out of their legally designated area into public land devoid of forage. BLM told him to stop. He refused. He claimed he was doing this to help the horses during drought, who he said hadn’t enough water inside the HMA. His actions set off a chain reaction in the Fish Creek herd. The animals, driven by instinct, crowded in, drawn by the presence of other horses. But they had little to eat, and the water Borba provided wasn’t enough to keep them healthy in the summer heat. They grew thin, and Borba took photos as testament of their miserable state.

Leigh believed the goal of this illegal activity was to create the appearance of crisis. It seemed to work.  The horses drawn in by Borba were now “off-HMA,” in the parlance of the BLM, meaning they were illegally grazing. Too many horses, too little feed, horses starving, emaciated, wandering off-HMA: proofs that the animals needed to be removed. But Leigh had trekked into the HMA that week to document what Borba didn’t want the public to know. “Water is, and was, available inside the HMA,” she said in her report at the time, noting that “horses within the HMA are not in declining condition.”

One summer day in 2015, a week after Borba had begun his illegal activities, I decided to ambush a BLM tour of the Fish Creek area. It was not intended for the press. It was supposed to have been a private affair between Borba and his allies, Doug Furtado, and Furtado’s bosses in the Nevada BLM, including the new state director, John Ruhs. Also in attendance were the powerful commissioners of Eureka County, who had the ear of Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, the Republicans from Nevada. That spring, Eureka County, with Kevin Borba as co-plaintiff, had filed a federal lawsuit demanding BLM remove all horses in the Fish Creek HMA.  They claimed, among other things, that the BLM did not have the authority to establish an experimental fertility control program there. The federal judge dismissed the case, saying it was baseless.

Borba and the county authorities, without recourse under the law, opted now for a different approach, a tour of the landscape with BLM officials to see if matters could be resolved outside the courts. The tour’s ostensible purpose was to take a look at conditions in the HMA, to show that fertility control at Fish Creek would be fruitless, to explain that Borba was a good man and innocent, and to establish that protecting forage for the cows meant the horses would have to go. Leigh believed its real purpose was to pummel Furtado for supporting her volunteer work and for going after Borba, and she wanted the media there to document it. She promised she would show up as well, though she admitted she was frightened to do so.

Furtado had told Leigh to use extreme caution at Fish Creek. BLM knew of numerous death threats against her. A commenter on Borba’s Facebook page wrote that residents would deal with interlopers like Leigh “the way they used to,” with “a rope and a tree.” A man emailed her, “I know you have a daughter. You need to be quiet or I’ll tell people.” A website was created to “destroy” her reputation. (It was called “Destroy HSUS and L.L.”, referring to the Humane Society of the United States.) The trolls said that she had exploited horses for donations, that she had lied and cheated as director of her nonprofit, that Wild Horse Education was a vehicle for her personal enrichment. Another Facebook poster said flatly that he would kill her, built a website dedicated to that goal, raised money for his journey to meet with Leigh, posted pictures of himself before and after shaving his head, and said he was leaving his guns at home because killing Leigh with his bare hands would be “more fun.” Her friends pooled cash to buy her a bulletproof vest.

A month before the tour at Fish Creek, in July 2015, Leigh had emerged from her latest round of surgery. The threats, the rumor-mongering, the lies, the slander and intimidation, and the exhaustion from cancer had taken their toll. She was terrorized, and she was tired.

So the tour started without her, the party assembling at a dirt turn-off in a wide sun-crushed valley bounded by craggy mountains. It was August and very hot. The wind stirred dust-devils across the sage steppe, and clouds boiled over the distant peaks, threatening storm. Borba wore a black hat and knee-high boots that framed spectacularly bowed legs accentuated by his keeping his jeans tucked into nearly knee-high boots, which broadcast the huge letters “B” in white on each boot.  There were perhaps 20 people, hard-faced staring men who leaned against their trucks with fingers notched in belt-loops.

Joining me as a legal observer was a surly Idaho lawyer named Brian Ertz, founder of the nonprofit WildLands Defense, who had taken an interest in conditions in Battle Mountain.  Ertz, who grew up in Idaho adventuring on the public lands, despised ranchers. He called them welfare queens, parasites, leeches in Stetsons, because of the enormous public subsidies showered on them. (Economists for the Center for Biological Diversity found in 2015 that taxpayers spend as much as $1 billion a year subsidizing public land ranchers, though they produce less than 3 percent of U.S. beef.) Employees of WildLands Defense knew every inch of the Argenta, and Ertz knew what Furtado had been through with the stockmen, and he didn’t like that Ruhs had betrayed his own man.  “Ruhs is a prostitute for livestock interests,” he said.

We got out of my rental car at the first stop of the tour and walked up to the group and introduced ourselves. No one was pleased. I nodded to Furtado. Ruhs, adorned as ever in the costume of the BLM cowboy, looked on warily. A meeting commenced under the boiling sky. The Eureka County officials, led by a county commissioner named Jake Tibbetts, presented a list of demands. They wanted all charges against Borba dropped. Furtado replied by citing the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. “It’s still in force,” he said. Ruhs cut him off and addressed Tibbetts: “We’ll look into it.”

There was a lot of talk about Laura Leigh, what a problematic factor she was in the management of the Battle Mountain district, how the BLM’s relationship with her was “troubling,” how Furtado’s office had welcomed her into its midst without considering ranchers like Borba, who considered her an unwelcome presence, a nuisance creature. “Laura Leigh is a volunteer with this office,” replied Furtado.

I wanted Leigh to show up and cause trouble. But she was nowhere to be found.  Ertz, who had introduced me to her, had sent her $200 that week via PayPal.  She was so broke her electricity and phone were about to be shut off, and she didn’t have enough money for gas to drive out from Reno. She was supposed to have paid her bills and got the truck running to meet us by the side of a road west of the town of Eureka.

The ranchers were badmouthing her when she arrived in a hulking redneck monstrosity, her lifted F250. It had tinted windows and a growling engine. She’d bought it from a guy in his 20s because it made her look formidable. (“He said it was like driving a big cock,” Leigh told me. “In Nevada I think that’s a regular truck sales pitch.”) But when she pulled up and saw Borba and the commissioners and the stockmen gathered, she wouldn’t get out of her truck. The men saw her, and watched, and waited, and nodded approvingly when she didn’t show her face. A few minutes later she texted: “That’s a shit-show lynch mob.” Ertz and I went over to her truck. “I’m not getting out.  If I do they’ll grab me by the ankles and they’ll beat Furtado with my dead body.”

I said something to Ertz about her chickening out, which I immediately regretted.  The meeting continued. There was a discussion of the allegations against Borba. He stood in stony silence, grimacing under his black Stetson. Then he took his turn to speak, stepping forward, leaning on his high heels, pushing out his belly, highlighting a big brass buckle, and said, “That Battle Mountain office has knocked me over the head.” He directed himself to Ruhs and nodded at Leigh in her truck behind the tinted windows. “Laura Leigh right there. It just says as much. This BLM is just damn knocking me down. Gets to a point where a man wants to fight.”

Tibbetts turned to Furtado and asked, “Why do these issues exist in your office and no other?” Ruhs cut in: “Comes back to relationships. We all got to work together. That’s something missing right now.”

“You’re putting us out of business,” Borba told Furtado, eyeing him.

To which Furtado might have answered: It’s the law putting you out of business, and I’m not going to break the law to keep you in business.

But Furtado was silent. And then I noticed something odd about Ruhs. He rode into the meeting in a truck with the ranchers and not with Furtado. During the conversation, he stood with the ranchers and not with Furtado. The ranchers with their hard, cold eyes stared at Furtado, and Ruhs stared with them. Furtado’s hands shook. He was holding a document, a report on rangeland conditions that he wanted to share with the group. I looked up at Ruhs, who whispered with Borba and Tibbetts, and together they gestured and joshed and smiled. And I looked back at Furtado and saw him like an island in the sea.

It didn’t matter what Furtado said or his report stated. Three weeks earlier, he had been in the hospital, having collapsed. Furtado’s shaking hands told them what they needed to hear. And his own boss watched and approved.

“That piece of shit,” said Ertz afterward. “He threw Furtado right under the bus. You have the state director standing behind the subject of an ongoing federal investigation and by his very body language signaled to Borba that it’s not going to be a problem.”

The tour progressed across the land in a caravan of pick-up trucks. It stopped at wells and watering troughs, at stretches of forage, at areas where the horses were said to have overgrazed, the cowboys piling out of the vehicles to circle Furtado and curse Leigh. When it ended and Ruhs had driven off with his rancher pals, Ertz and I walked up to Furtado. “Why is Ruhs not standing with you, his own employee?”

“Well, you write that down,” Furtado replied.  “And how about this: you know why those relationships are different here than in any other district? Because we know the law and the regulations and we try to implement them in impossible environmental conditions.”

In the end, the law that Furtado believed in was meaningless. Sen. Heller and Rep. Amodei, using their considerable influence at BLM, intervened on behalf of Borba. He was never charged for his horse shenanigans—the investigation vanished from the public record — and his $30,000 fine for trespass cattle operations was reduced to $5,000. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, he should have faced criminal charges and the permanent loss of his grazing permit. But he walked away untouched.

(John Ruhs did not respond at press time to a request for an interview. Rep. Raul Grijalva wrote in a statement, “My staff and I take seriously all allegations of government waste, fraud and abuse that come to us. The allegations surrounding the events in Nevada related to wild horses, including known violations of federal law, are troubling and merit a full explanation.” One of his staffers added in an email to Leigh, which she shared with me, that they were “very concerned” for her safety.)

Later that day, Ertz and I met up again with Leigh to drive across the Fish Creek HMA looking for horses. She knew them by sight, as she had followed them for many years, and she hailed them out the window. There was Jasper, a friendly curious red roan bachelor who had a white blaze on his muzzle. Charlie was a typical bay, big and calm and approachable, with a white spot on his forehead, who she had named for her father.  There was Infinity, an older sorrel colored a dirty burgundy, the shyest of the bachelors, who had once been a band stallion but was now relegated to lesser company.

“Fish Creek is every possible kind of horse,” Leigh said. “It’s a bouquet of flowers.” There were blue roans and red roans and palominos and bays and appaloosas. There was a horse christened a pintoroanaloosa.

“People see wild horses for the first time, it’s like watching a kid at Christmas,” Leigh said. “It’s surprise and joy and excitement and wonder. Just a few weeks ago I took a group of kids out here to camp. Fish Creek was such a nice place. But now there’s so much bullshit.” Because the fertility control program didn’t go forward, there likely will be a round-up of the horses within the next year.  And some of those horses will die in holding.

We sat for a while with Leigh in her truck, watching the summer storm blow in from the mountains. “The context of all this is that ranching is a pathological culture,” she said.  “Whatever is wild and free needs to be subordinated. It’s beyond competing for grass. The idea that wild horses are out there at all fucks with the rancher’s head. He just doesn’t get it, that there are wild things out there with a right to exist. What’s happened to horses is about the corruption of our government by the livestock industry. We have a war for public land. And the public knows nothing about it.  If people don’t wake up, we’re going to lose the war.”

Set-up for slaughter

In 2004, during the week before the Thanksgiving recess, Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana quietly slipped into a thousand-page omnibus spending bill a rider that amended the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The Burns amendment, as it came to be known, allowed the sale of wild horses to be killed for commercial processing. The spending bill passed with the rider uncontested, and for the first time since 1971 it was now legal for the BLM to oversee the slaughter-for-profit of horses on the public lands.

No one in Congress who was friendly to wild horses—a sizable number of legislators—noticed the rider until it was too late, although no one in the community of horse advocates expected anything less from Conrad Burns. He got his start in the cattle industry as an auctioneer for the Billings Livestock Commission, went on to manage one of the major livestock expositions in the northwest, and worked as a journalist reporting on agricultural markets. In the ’70s he founded the Northern Agricultural Network, which by 1986 grew to serve dozens of regional radio and television stations. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1989, voted in as a darling of cattlemen, he remained in office through 2007, the year after Time Magazine voted him one of the country’s five worst senators, largely because of his involvement in greasing the monumental corruption of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Burns amendment was never repealed, but since 2005 legislators have effectively suppressed it by disallowing federal funding to be used to “kill healthy, wild horses,” ship them to slaughter, or sell them to kill buyers. Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget for the Department of the Interior will fund the provisions of the Burns amendment. Congress, turned ever rightward against environmental protection, appears to be amenable.

On the horizon is the return of the era of mustanging, but it comes with a twist. If the 2018 fiscal budget passes as proposed, processing horses into commercial products will not be accomplished by wild-eyed misfits on the open range but by bureaucrats at the Department of the Interior, subsidized by the taxpayer. In a curious irony of history, the lawless slaughter that Velma Johnston sought to end will be perpetrated under cover of law.

One of the influential lobbyists behind this policy change is a little-known nonprofit in Indiana called Protect the Harvest, which was founded in 2011 by a multi-millionaire entrepreneur named Forrest Lucas. Lucas is the CEO of Lucas Oil Products, sponsor of NASCAR racing teams, and owner of television and film production studios that feature motorsports. He is also a hobby rancher on land he owns in Missouri. He has invested over $600,000 in Protect the Harvest, which, according to its website, “exists to defend our way of life, preserve our food freedom, and stand up for your right to farm, fish, hunt, eat meat, and own animals.”

The group’s declared enemy is the Humane Society of the United States, which Protect the Harvest identifies as “the largest policy arm of America’s radical animal rights movement.”  Wayne Pacelle, the CEO and president of the Humane Society, told me Protect the Harvest “represents the most extreme anti-animal welfare sect in society. It’s a super-PAC against animal welfare.”

Protect the Harvest has waged campaigns defending horse soring, the practice of torturing horses with chemically-induced sores to train them for “walking horse” competitions. The group has defended puppy mills, dog fighting, roadside zoos that hold animals in miserable confinement, battery cages in fur farms and chicken egg factories, gestation crates in industrial pig farming, and the cruel practices of commercial whaling and sealing.

“The group has even fought giving proper shelter to outdoor dogs,” Pacelle told me recently.  “Stuff that borders on the malicious in its intentions. We’ve yet to find a form of animal cruelty that Protect the Harvest won’t rise in defense of.” I asked Pacelle his opinion of Forrest Lucas. “He seems to be a caricature of an evil corporate magnate who has no mercy for any creature, great or small. It’s hard to explain the motivation for a guy to defend every type of animal exploitation.” The Center for Food Safety, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco, calls Protect the Harvest “a food industry front group.”

Protect the Harvest has also advocated the slaughter of wild horses. The group’s point man on horses is Dave Duquette, its director of equine affairs. (At press time, I was unable to get Duquette on the phone for comment.) Duquette was among the supporters of Kevin Borba who had gathered at the Fish Creek tour that I attended in 2015. He had been busy that summer, funded by Protect the Harvest to produce videos the group spread on social media in defense of Borba. One of the subjects of Duquette’s work was the heinousness of Laura Leigh and her efforts to implement fertility control at Fish Creek. And among Duquette’s newfound allies was John Ruhs. Duquette stated on Facebook that he had made a deal with the BLM state office—meaning Ruhs—to get Leigh out of working at Fish Creek.

A few months after his flurry of publicity for Borba, Duquette showed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to provide media coverage and logistical support for the sons of Cliven Bundy, Ammon and Ryan, who led the widely publicized armed takeover there by rancher-militiamen. (Duquette posted a picture of himself on Facebook smiling with Ammon Bundy—archived here, at right—a few weeks into the 41-day stand-off.) The involvement of Protect the Harvest at Malheur prompted domestic terrorism expert J.J. MacNab, at a congressional forum last year on “countering extremism on public lands,” to name the group as an enabler of extremists.  She also noted, on Twitter, her suspicion that Protect the Harvest may have been one of the anonymous “deep pocketed” funders of the Malheur stand-off who Ammon Bundy had referred to in interviews. Indeed, Todd McFarlane, a Utah lawyer who represents stockmen and who was acting as a spokesman for the Bundys during the stand-off, blogged that Protect the Harvest had made “its people, resources and checkbook available” at Malheur.

Members and allies of Protect the Harvest now sit in key positions to influence the Trump administration. Brian Klippenstein, the executive director of Protect the Harvest, led Trump’s transition team at the Department of Agriculture. Among the transition advisors at the Department of the Interior was Karen Budd-Falen, a long-time lawyer for public land ranchers who has litigated against the BLM’s environmental regulations. Last year Budd-Falen represented rancher-friendly counties in Utah who sued the BLM to force the agency to remove all horses from public lands in the state and sell them to slaughter. The lawsuit was identical to the suit filed by Borba and Eureka County over the Fish Creek fertility control program, and was also baseless, as a federal judge determined when he threw it out in July.   Budd-Falen is now Trump’s leading candidate to direct the BLM. Klippenstein has been hired as a senior advisor to the in-coming secretary of Agriculture. (The cabinet position has yet to be filled). John Ruhs has moved out of Nevada and been appointed acting deputy director of operations at the BLM, the highest career position that a BLM employee can achieve through promotion. His knifing of employees like Doug Furtado appears to have paid off.

In Congress, the House has approved Trump’s proposed budget for the BLM to kill the 60,000 horses currently in holding. The Senate has reconvened as this article goes to press. If the Senate approves the budget, those horses will die. Meanwhile, not a word is heard in Congress about fertility control. The horses on the range will continue to overpopulate. More horses will be rounded up, as the capture-and-hold industry sees its revenues grow, with a new prospective profit stream from selling the animals to slaughter. And the forage on the public domain will be reserved for the one animal that matters: the cow.

‘The last myth of my youth’

One day not long ago, I met with Laura Leigh after a round-up of horses in northern Nevada. We had dinner at the Golden Corral Casino in Elko. The slot machines ringed and chimed, the booze flowed, and down the road was a brothel. Leigh doesn’t gamble and doesn’t drink. “Alcoholism, gambling away your life, sex for money, prostitution, exploitation of women, exploitation of the land. I need to get out of Nevada,” she said. “And I can’t. Because of the horses.”

I remembered one of the first conversations I’d had with her, in 2015, about how she’d ended up in Nevada. She had ridden horses as a kid, owned a horse in her Jersey backyard, shoveled shit every morning, and went to school stinking of horse. Years later she watched domestic horses in slaughterhouses abused, tortured, and killed.

When she came to Nevada she expected something better for the horses that were wild and free-roaming. “You know, I think about Velma. Here she is, polio, this woman who beat all odds, and we’re going to lose all she fought for. When I beat the cancer, I thought that was the worst thing I’d ever face. But it’s not. Cancer I can take. This, what’s happening now, to these horses? Maybe the last myth of my youth is cracking. Maybe it was all bullshit, the wild and free horse, wild and free America, the American dream. That’s the mythology. Nevada is the reality.”

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BLM’s and University of Wyoming’s Adobe Town Wild Horse Study to Collar wild mares abusive

Stunning Lack of Tranparancy in BLM’s and University of Wyoming’s Adobe Town Wild Horse Study

Stunning Lack of Tranparancy in BLM’s and University of Wyoming’s Adobe Town Wild Horse Study

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ACTION ALERT: Contact Mr. Trump now to save our wild horses and burros

ACTION ALERT: Contact Mr. Trump now before it is too late to save our wild horses and burros.

Dear Mr. Trump, I am a wild horse advocate in NH. I am praying that you have a big heart for animals and that you will use your new power to protect America’s iconic wild mustangs and burros from the slaughterhouse pipeline so they will always be allowed to live free with their families in viable herds on public lands forever, as the law Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act provides, so that future generations can see them in the wild and not just on TV or at the movies. Please act swiftly to voice your belief that my American mustangs are protected before it is too late. So many animals and animal species around the world are being hunted and exterminated. Please save the wild horses that I love with all my heart and make the BLM always protect them and manage our public lands with the safety of the wild horses and burros in mind. Save them from the onslaught of the hungry oil, gas, mining and cattle ranchers from gobbling up our public lands. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. They must not be sterilized, sent to the slaughterhouse pipeline or killbuyers or inhumanely treated. Please stop the cruel and deadly helicopter roundups. Stop money from ruling the use of public lands. Please protect the wild mustangs and burros so they can successfully survive in numbers that are healthy and viable herds. Do not let the welfare cattle people take over all of the grazing land and water supplies. Do not push the pipeline and gas fracking throughout America’s pristine public lands just for greed and MONEY. Save the mustangs and the planet for your grandchildren to know your legacy will be a great one and not all about money. Please learn from the Native Americans that the land is indeed a sacred place and that it is so worth protecting. Leave this earth with a great footprint that future generations will be proud to say that President Trump was like Ted Roosevelt and saved the public lands and the wild horses and burros for future generations. Thank you for your time and great efforts to protect America. Prove that the TRUMP Story does not need to be all about Money. Sincerely, Denise Brown, thank you Learn more about America’s wild mustangs today at

save the wild horses and burros sticker

save the wild horses and burros sticker to copy and put on your vehicle with a magnetic sticker


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BLM Mouthpiece Rides Again: Protected Wild Horses and Burros be Damned, RT Fitch

BLM Mouthpiece Rides Again: Protected Wild Horses and Burros be Damned

“In MY most outraged opinion” ~ R.T. Fitch

“Poison bleeds from the pen of the uninformed…”

david_philippsLike the distant scent of something rotting in the sun the stench of an alleged journalist, under the manipulation of the federal government, has returned to ensure that cruelty and misinformation about wild horses and burros will be spread in the biased, mainstream media, again: enter David Philipps, stage left. (YeeHaa, the little nerd has returned)

You remember Philipps, the cocky, wet-behind-the-ears, reporter wanna-be who blew out of the water an intensive underground investigation into the BLM selling wild horses and burros to slaughter back in 2012, cause he wanted a “scoop”? ( Yup, dat’s the creep…and he is back.)

In 2012 Philipps wrote an article on Tom Davis, neighbor and personal buddy of then Secretary of the Department of Interior Ken Salazar, selling over 1,700 federally protected wild horses off to slaughter…the problem with the expose’ was that it was too little too early as equine advocates had Davis and Salazar dead to rights and before they could adequately pull the documentation together to legally nail the wild equine killers Philipps blew the whistle and the paper trail to legal prosecution evaporated. Advocates had pled with Phillips to hold the info in check but it is a lesson learned that “loose lips sink ships” is a valid phrase that works as well in this war of words as it did back in the World War. Philipps is in it for Philipps. (Look at ME, Look at ME!)

"I'm going to kick your ass, boy!" ~ Salazar

“I’m going to kick your ass, boy!” ~ Salazar

The only good thing that came from Philipps vomiting up crucial evidence against kill buyers was that it pissed off the Chief Horse Killer himself, Ken Salazar, enough that he made the, oh my gosh, mistake of threatening to kick the little creep’s ass in public and not long afterwards he was no longer the Secretary of one of our government’s most corrupt agencies. (So sorry ya ain’t missed…oppps, he works for Hillary now as her transition team lead, yikes.)

Now the little sellout has ridden back onto the scene astride his keyboard of misinformation to paint for the public a story of fabricated frustration for the downtrodden leadership of the BLM and the “woe is me” poor cattle ranchers who house wild horses on their land, instead of cows, while making 5 figures a day for doing so. (Guess who is paying THAT bill, yup, tis you my friend.)

Last week Philipps latest installment in attempting to destroy the last of our wild horses and burro’s freedom was entitled, “Success Spoils a U.S. Program to Round Up Wild Horses” and appeared in the New York Times. (Wow, the Times, why can’t I get anything in the Times. Oh, yeah, we write the truth, that was a no brainer.)

The title along drips with “suck-upidness” (new word I just invented) and immediately alerts a self-actualized reader that the facts and content will be slanted; as in downhill and south to the feds. (Doink, no need to read further.)

"I is a Pickle!" ~ Bolstad

“I is a Pickle!” ~ Bolstad

The article begins with BLM wild horse program’s lead, Dean Bolstad, pushing back his ole cowboy head and saying “ I love seeing this,” (horses in holding) while lamenting on how the horses are sinking his program. (This is the federal employee who laid the groundwork, and whispered in the ears of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, to KILL and MURDER all of the horses that are in holding…pure, unadulterated bull crap!)

And this good ole boy, who refers the 6th grade as his “senior” year, goes on to say that he and his crones have successfully removed 46,000 wild equines from their rightful range only to plunk then down on 60 private cattle ranches to the tune of $49 million dollars a year…duh.

“We’re in a real pickle,” he continues. Hey, you are not in a real pickle, you ARE the real pickle because it is obvious that your mind is either infused with large amounts of vinegar or embalming fluid as this is a trumped up artificial fiscal emergency of YOUR OWN MAKING you twit. (I know that I am shouting insults but this article is so riddled with stupid that it is difficult to get from one sentence to the next.)

Case in point, Philipps gets a private tour of a secret long term holding contractor, Robert Hughes, in Oklahoma. When was the last time an advocate got a private tour and poor old Bobby says he has, allegedly, 4,000 horses on his land and only making 2 bucks a day for his lack of effort. WHAT, 8 thousand a day for horses grazing…10 days that is 80 thousand and for a month your looking at almost a quarter of million!  (I feel sooo sorry for Bobby. Life is a bitch and then you profit from the feds, I know it is rough but someone has to do it.)

Next ole Philipps interviews two of the newest members of the BLM’s special interest advisory board who voted to KILL all of the horses. “Oh, the devastation to the range is so severe that something has to be done,” they read from their scripts but even the idiot article dummy downs the numbers to confess to the fact that wild equines are out numbered by federally subsidized welfare cattle at the conservative ratio of 10 to 1.

Did you get that? Private, government subsidized cattle out number protected wild equines to the tune of 10 to 1 (they let that slip, must have been a mind fart)…and the range is being overgrazed by horses and burros? And, to add injury to insult, the government pays millions of dollars to take the small number of horses off from their rightful range to put them where, on CATTLE RANCHES.

Is it just me or is there an easy fix, here? Shouldn’t we let the small herds of horses stay on the range, at zero cost, and put cattle on the cattle ranches, again at no cost, and everyone comes out a winner? Oh, stupid me, it is all about double dipping and the welfare ranchers making money on both ends of the stick. Graze on public land for next to nothing and making big money putting former wild horses on your cattle ranch.  (it’s a win/win, honey.)

But Philipps does not see it, he rambles on with poison quotes and incorrect numbers with only a few conciliatory comments from advocates. More mainstream misinformation to the public and the scariest point of all this is that the public believes it. “Well it was in the Times and on the Internet wasn’t it? It’s gotta be true!”

So the war against wild horses and burros rages on as the government, cattle ranchers and their journalistic stooges collude to rid, kill and destroy the few remaining viable herds that still exist on our public lands. (Philipps is a war correspondent by trade, and it shows, here.)

How do we fight back, you ask? Stay informed, stay vigilante and tell everyone that you know about the Fed’s mission to destroy the horses and burros on behalf of their special interest bedfellows. And above all, be certain to inform them not to believe everything that they read as much of it is delivered by henchmen like Philipps who wouldn’t know what an original idea was if it hit him alongside the head.

Ride on, Davey, and take your BLM buddies with you as nothing would make the equine advocates of the world happier than to see the whole lot of you ride off into the sunset, for good.

See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!!!!

R.T. Fitch is a author, blogger and out spoken equine advocate who is noted for having no opinion on anything of consequence; as is evident, here

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Europe requires Canada: 6 months no medical care for horses bound for slaughter

CHDC Executive Director Published in Canada’s Political Newsweekly – The Hill Times
by canadianhorsedefencecoalition

In preparation for CHDC’s visit to Otttawa,  our Executive Director,  Sinikka Crosland, wrote the following article for The Hill Times:

Horsemeat trade raises human health and animal welfare concerns (Subscription required,  reproduced here for our readers)

In recent weeks, the European Commission announced it will adopt stricter regulations on the import of horsemeat from non-EU countries, including Canada. These rules are unfortunately well justified. In fact, the measures taken may still not be stringent enough.

As MPs this week debate the animal welfare bill, C-246, they should also direct their attention to Canada’s role in the dangerous and inhumane horsemeat industry.

Canada is a major supplier of horsemeat to the EU, in part because the horsemeat trade has been effectively banned in the United States, so U.S. suppliers now route their horses through Canada. Since the U.S. ended its horsemeat trade, 70% of Canadian horsemeat now originates south of the border. In 2015, 67,946 horses were slaughtered on Canadian soil, their meat subsequently shipped to international destinations, and 5,782 horses were exported by air cargo for slaughter in Japan.

As of March 31, 2017, the EU will no longer accept horsemeat from non-EU nations unless the animals have satisfied a six-month residency requirement in that country, allowing for the progressive withdrawal of drugs that may have been ingested prior to slaughter. In 2014, the EU completely suspended importation of horsemeat from Mexico because of traceability and food safety issues.

Most horses in North America have been treated with drugs such as phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory medication that can be found in the first aid kits of most committed horse owners. Although Canada occasionally tests horsemeat for such drugs, testing can only detect recent treatments with the drug. Yet there is no safe determined withdrawal period for these drugs and no certain method to monitor which slaughter-bound horses have received it over their lifetimes. Canada and many other countries prohibits phenylbutazone from the food chain; it is never to be administered to an animal destined for human consumption. Yet it has no way to effectively test if the drug was administered more than a few months before slaughter.

Exacerbating the issue is the fact that horses are generally raised as pets or companion animals. Because most horse owners are not raising them as food, they routinely administer drugs that are prohibited in the food chain. It is usually only later in the horse’s life – often after the horse has been sold to another owner – that it is directed for slaughter.

Small wonder that the EU has taken measures to confront the problem of drug residues contaminating meat imported into their countries. But is a six-month residency requirement enough to guarantee safe horsemeat? Documents covering feedlot horses are easy to falsify. In addition, because of serious toxicity implications, phenylbutazone carries with it a lifetime prohibition – not 180 days. A greater measure of safety would be achieved by requiring mandatory lifetime veterinary records on all slaughter-bound horses.

Animal welfare is another serious issue. Much has been documented about the inhumane treatment of horses as they move down the slaughter pipeline. Another layer of concern will be added to this picture when horses are routinely warehoused in feedlots for six months. Sick and injured horses will not receive the medications that they require. They will be denied basic treatments and comforts that are considered mandatory according to humane standards in Canada and other civilized countries.

Examining the many problems inherent in the horse slaughter industry, one has to wonder why it exists at all. Canada’s economy receives an infusion of billions of dollars every year as a result of the live horse industry – from large animal veterinary clinics and farrier services to prestigious Spruce Meadows, from country-wide tack store chains to massive hay farms, horses continue to enrich our country coast to coast. Yet the horse slaughter industry plays an insignificant role in this economy, and according to polling, it is a role most Canadians oppose.

The EU ruling should serve as a warning to Canadian officials. We should follow the U.S. lead in ending a horsemeat trade that provides meager benefits while adding significant health and reputational risks to Canada’s food exports.

– Sinikka Crosland is Executive Director of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

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US Forest Service rounds up wild horses and euthanizes or sells them

Devils Garden Wild Horses

Here is what they are NOT telling the public in the below news article…

The USFS discontinued all funding for long term holding for wild horses and burros a few years ago. During the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Management Advisory Board meeting in 2015 and again on April 14, 2016, Barry Imler, Forest Service Rangeland Management Specialist provided the USFS “new” flow chart for wild horses captured on USFS lands. The chart shows that all captured wild horses not returned to public lands or young ones not adopted after 3 attempts and all wild horses over the age of ten will be euthanized or sold without limitation (KB). They will not be going to any long term holding. I quote, USFS Modoc Forest Supervisor, Kimberly H Anderson, “Disposition of older animals will be as stated above, consistent with law regulations and policy. This may include, but would not be limited to, turning them back out to the range, adoption, placement in long-term facilities, or euthanization.” “Should animals be euthanized, the manner of euthanasia would be in the most humane manner possible. In a field setting, they may be euthanized through the use of firearms or drugs…”

*As I previously stated, USFS Imler said there is no longer funding for long-term holding.

More information:

USFS Wild Horse “Flow Chart”


Devil’s Garden wild horse gather continues”

  • Sep 29, 2016

ALTURAS – Gathering of Devil’s Garden Wild Horses so far this week has been successful. Approximately 45 horses were gathered Monday from Pit River Tribal lands near the southwest end of Goose Lake, and 48 Tuesday from private land where owners requested their removal. The horses were transported safely to the Willow Creek Ranch temporary holding facility, according to a Modoc National Forest report.

Nine members of the public viewed Monday’s helicopter gather operations by Cattoor Livestock Roundups from the Goose Lake Causeway and more joined them for a tour of the temporary holding facility.

On Tuesday, after the horses were counted and sorted by age and sex, members of the public were invited by contractor Sue Cattoor to view the horses from a closer vantage point. The group saw light and dark grays, red roans, bay roans, sorrels and blacks. Most horses were calm. If someone walked a little too close to the corral fence the wary stallions would turn to get away.

The gather from private and tribal lands where the forest has received requests to remove wild horses will continue through the rest of the week.

The Modoc National Forest is seeking commitments for adoption of wild horses older than 5 years of age. Gathered horses ages 6 and older will be held at the temporary holding facility at Willow Creek Ranch for public viewing and commitment for adoption. Public viewing of gathered horses is available from 3 to 5 p.m. at Willow Creek Ranch approximately 20 miles north from Hwy 299 on Crowder Flat Road (Forest Road 73).

Older horses with adoption commitments and all horses ages 5 and younger will be transported to the BLM’s Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro facility and adopted through their normal process.

Visit or call 530-233-5811 for more information.

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Congress did not say that wild horses above the AML should be removed! Read Court Case 9/2016

Eyewitness Report: Defending Wild Horses at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

From left – AWHPC Executive Director Suzanne Roy; Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks attorneys Bill Eubanks, Kathy Meyer and Nick Lawton; Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation.

On September 19, 2016, William Eubanks, of Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks, did an outstanding job of defending Wyoming’s wild horses before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Representing the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom and photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl, Eubanks argued back-to-back cases before a three-judge panel. Decisions in both cases are not expected for several weeks, or more.

Case #1: Wyoming Checkerboard (AWHPC, et. al. vs. BLM)

This is the appeal of a lawsuit filed by AWHPC, et. al. in 2014 over the BLM’s roundup of 1,260 wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard of the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs). The action brought the wild horse populations in two of the three HMAs below the “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs) established under the governing Resource Management Plans for the area.

The Wyoming Checkerboard is a more than 2-million-acre area of land, alternating between public and private parcels in southern Wyoming. More than half the land in the checkerboard is public land managed by the BLM. The private land parcels are owned by the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) are leased by the RSGA from Anadarko Petroleum for livestock grazing.

At issue in this case is whether the BLM can use the RSGA’s request to remove wild horses from private land parcels as an excuse, or justification, to also remove (and essentially eliminate) wild horses from nearby or adjacent public lands as well.

The law on this point is clear. Section 4 of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires the BLM to remove stray wild horses from private lands upon request of a landowner. Section 3 of the Act, however, guides the removal of wild horses from the public lands.Section 3 defines a two step process for removing wild horses from public lands: First the BLM must determine that an overpopulation of horses exists on the public land in question, and then it must determine that the horses must be removed in order to restore the Thriving Natural Ecological Balance of the area. Despite the fact that the BLM failed to comply with Section 3, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal allowed the BLM’s actions to stand.

During oral arguments this morning, Eubanks argued to overturn the lower court decision. He stressed the precedent-setting nature of the BLM’s actions in the Wyoming Checkerboard. He noted that there are 179 BLM wild horse and burro Herd Management Areas, and every one either includes or abuts private land. Therefore, the BLM’s actions that allow private landowners to dictate the removal of wild horses from public lands have far-reaching implications for wild horses across the entire West. Citing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Eubanks stated that BLM “does not have the ability to remove wild horses from the public lands to prevent them from straying onto the private lands as well.”

Judge Mary Beth Briscoe asked Eubanks about the viability of the BLM’s argument that it was not feasible to remove wild horses from the private lands in the Checkerboard without also removing them from the public lands. Eubanks answered, “Treating millions of acres of public land as private under a statute that is intended to protect wild horses on public land is never a proper construction of the statutes.”

Later, in questioning an attorney for the BLM, Judge Scott Matheson folowed up on  Eubanks’ arguments, asking “How can BLM ignore Section 3 [of the Wild Horse Act] on over 2 million acres of land, over half of which is public?” “They are treating the public lands like private lands,” he later observed.

The government attorney acknowledged that this was a change in BLM policy.

Eric Peterson of the Department of Justice closed the government’s arguments with what he called a “practical consideration” about protecting private landowner rights. Eubanks provided a succinct rebuttal, stating that: 1) federally protected animals cannot to be removed from the public lands unless agency follows the law for making excess determinations, and 2) the Resource Management Plans that establish population levels for HMAs are binding, and unless or until they are revised, apply.

Case 2. State of Wyoming vs. BLM

The State of Wyoming sued the BLM seeking more wild horse roundups. The State is claiming that the “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs) established by BLM are legally binding and that whenever wild horse populations exceed these AMLs, the BLM is legally mandated to remove “excess” horses. The lower court tossed out the State of Wyoming’s lawsuit, and the State appealed.

It was refreshing, and rather ironic, to hear attorneys for the Department of Justice (DOJ) making the arguments that we always make with regard to removals and “excess” horses. The DOJ attorney stated correctly that in order to remove wild horses from the public lands, the BLM must make a two-step finding, as noted above. First the agency must determine that an overpopulation of wild horses exists, and then it must find that wild horses need to be removed to restore the Thriving Natural Ecological Balance in the area. Just because a wild horse population exceeds the AML does not mean that “excess” horses are present, the DOJ attorney argued. He further stated that even if BLM determines that an overpopulation of wild horses exists, it is not mandated to remove horses. Rather it has wide discretion to deal with overpopulation in a variety of ways, including fertility control, sex ratio adjustment, sterilization and natural controls (predation). Although the DOJ did not mention it, the BLM also has discretion to deal with horse overpopulation by reducing livestock grazing, pursuant to 43 CFR 4710.5

The judges did not seem to accept the State of Wyoming’s arguments that 20-year old AMLs were set in stone and legally binding.  Judge Briscoe noted that significant ecological changes can occur over 20 years, asking, “The BLM has no discretion?”

In response the State of Wyoming’s attorney wrongly claimed that BLM re-evaluates AMLs every time the agency does an Environmental Assessment for a wild horse roundup. In reality, the BLM regularly states that the re-evaluation of AMLs is “outside the scope” of roundup EAs.

Judge Briscoe replied that “relying on AML is not sufficient. Just because AML was set long ago…the Act explicitly requires the BLM to justify its removal actions on ALL CURRENT INFORMATION, including overpopulation. Even where the agency makes an overpopulation determination, it must also determine that removal is necessary to achieve the Thriving Natural Ecological Balance.”

Eubanks followed the DOJ attorney and reaffirmed that removal decisions are not tied to the AML, they are tied to the Thriving Natural Ecological Balance. “Congress did not say that horses above the AML should be removed”, he said.

The State of Wyoming rebuttal was weak and did not adequately counter the salient legal arguments made by Eubanks and the DOJ attorney.

Decisions on both cases are expected in several weeks.


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BLM Director Announces No Killing of Wild Horses in Holding, Ginger Kathrens

fca095b7-7be3-4f1e-8a2d-d90f81b86356TCF News Blast

BLM Director Announces No Killing of Wild Horses in Holding

-Points to TCF/AWHPC Lawsuit as Reason for Halting Wild Mare Sterilization.


Dear Friends;

Today the BLM announced that it was not accepting the recommendation from their National Advisory board to destroy the horses in holding and offering the horses that had not been adopted after three adoption events for sale with out limitation.  This recommendation met a firestorm of outrage across the country and caused our phones to ring off the hook.  I voted “no” on this recommendation.

Most of you know that in March of this year I was chosen by the Secretary of the Interior to serve as the Humane Advocate on this nine-member board. Just last week I flew to Elko Nevada for my second BLM National Advisory Board meeting.  It was eventful to say the least.

Before the meeting began, I learned that BLM decided to drop all three sterilization research projects that were to be conducted on wild mares (and fillies as young as 8 months).  In announcing that the horses in holding would not be killed, BLM Director, Neil Kornze referenced our lawsuit (TCF and AWHPC,), requesting to be present to view and record the sterilization procedures, as the reason the experiements in Oregon were cancelled. Others lawsuits and the thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from concerned Americans certainly played a part as well. Great job advocates!!!

But, this celebration was short lived. On the second day of the meeting, my colleagues on the Resources Working Group (we have five working groups) recommended to the entire Board that the horses in holding be destroyed and those offered for adoption three-times unsuccessfully, should be sold without limitation (i.e. buy as many as you want).  The Board then voted on this recommendation. I was the only dissenting vote. In fact I said “Absolutely not, no.” It was an easy decision.

Today we learned that BLM voted “no” as well. This does not mean the horses in holding and on the range are out of trouble. I remember the documents that came to my office in late 2008 revealing secret BLM meetings in which the agency discussed how many horses could be killed each year and how many psychologists would be needed to counsel BLM employees asked to kill healthy wild horses.

In June, I was asked to speak before the House Sub-Committee on Federal Lands. It was clear that the Western congressional representatives had no interest in hearing what I had to say. They wanted the horses gone, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming purred that euthanasia of thousands of captive wild horses would be such “a lovely way to die.” See our press release.

So where do we go from here. It is imperative that we continue to speak up, encouraging BLM to use humane tools to limit births in our wild horse herds.
TCF board member, Sandra Sell-Lee, in collaboration with BLM, has developed an On the Range Management Guide, in which volunteers get out on the range and apply infertility vaccines to wild mares as recommended by the National Academies of Science in their 2013 report to BLM. The ultimate goal is limiting reproduction to natural mortality. And to reduce the number of wild horses held in short term corrals, we should return these non-reproducing geldings and mares to available BLM lands designated for wild horse use, but where no wild horses currently live.

I hope you will join us and support this effort. It will be hard. It will take time. It
will take a lot of energy and tremendous persistence. But it is ultimately a way to keep our wild horses where they belong. . .in their homes, with their families, living in precious freedom!

Happy Trails!

PS. Lawsuits like the one to stop the sterilization of wild mares are not cheap.
I hope you will consider making a contribution to our organization to cover
the costs of fighting legally for the rights of our wild horses—those in the
wild and those held captive. Thanks for your help.
Support wild mustangs and burros:
Please contact us for more information:
Our mailing address is:
107 S 7th St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80908Our Phone Number Is:

Our email is:

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Thank you so much for your support!
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Copyright © 2016 TheCloudFoundation, All rights reserved.

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In the Race for the Presidency, America’s Horses Could be the Biggest Losers

In the Race for the Presidency, America’s Horses Could be the Biggest Losers

September 13, 2016

by Susan Wagner, President & Founder, Equine Advocates

All of the progress that has been made since the last horse slaughterhouse operating in the U.S. closed in 2007 is in danger of being reversed. This is why we are now urgently calling on President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to end horse slaughter before they leave office with an Executive Order and/or Federal Policy change to remove equines from the food chain entirely.

Ken Salazar

Ken Salazar was one of the worst Interior Secretaries of all time and a disaster for horses. If he heads Hillary Clinton’s Transition Team, our hopes to finally see an end to horse slaughter could be quashed.

Both major Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have announced some disturbing appointments. If Hillary Clinton becomes President, Ken Salazar, the former Interior Secretary, ranked by many as one of the worst in American History (along with Albert Fall, James Watt and Gail Norton), has been named to head her Transition Team. Salazar was a huge proponent of horse slaughter long before he became Interior Secretary. In 2013, he resigned his position as Interior Secretary under questionable circumstances. It was revealed that under Salazar’s watch, Tom Davis, a known horse dealer and rancher, bought 1,794 Wild BLM Mustangs for just $10 apiece and sold them for slaughter in Mexico. We believe having Ken Salazar in any position of power would be a continued threat to the safety and protection of America’s wild and domestic equines. Please read this article that appeared in the Washington Times:

Salazar’s agenda to “industrialize” the West and America’s Public Lands amplifies the threat to America’s remaining wild horse and burro herds. We believe the damage he did while he was in office continues to have detrimental and dangerous effects on the wildlife and the land. We implore Secretary Clinton to reconsider her appointment of Ken Salazar to her administration if she wins the election.

Equally horrendous is the list of horse slaughter proponents that Donald Trump has selected as part of his “Agricultural Advisory Committee.”  They include:

Forrest Lucas

Forrest Lucas, head of the anti-animal/ pro-horse slaughter PAC, Protect the Harvest, is on a mission to bring horse slaughter back to the U.S. He is just one of numerous horse slaughter proponents named to Donald Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee.

  • Forrest Lucas, oilman (Lucas Oil) and rancher – His political action committee (PAC), Protect the Harvest is, in our opinion, the most dangerous anti-horse/anti-animal PAC in the nation. He said of his PAC, “…we’re out here organized…” and “…we need to get horse slaughter back.”
  • Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, who had signed a bill to legalize horse slaughter in her state
  • Bob Goodlatte, Congressman from Virginia and former chair of the House Agriculture Committee, a major force in blocking legislation to ban horse slaughter for years.

For a complete list of Trump’s proposed Agricultural Advisory Committee members, click here:

In addition, Trump has former Georgia Congressman, Jack Kingston as one of his advisers and also as a media spokesperson. Kingston was a member of the infamous 2011 Congressional Conference Committee that voted 3-1 (along with Senator Ray Blunt and former Senator Herb Kohl) to bring horse slaughter back to the U.S. They based their votes on the special interest-driven Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report #11-228 on Horse Slaughter. John Holland, President of the Equine Welfare Alliance successfully proved that the GAO Report was, in fact, fraudulent:

These appointments by both candidates show that special interests have already won — And the election has not even taken place yet!

Clearly, most Americans want to see an end to horse slaughter, but both of these candidates have already selected individuals who we believe would move to slaughter horses with no regard or consideration for the will of the vast majority of Americans on this issue.

The dangerous agendas of some lawmakers to quickly rebuild horse slaughterhouses in this country to satisfy special interests in the horse and ranching industries is a real threat. This goes hand-in-hand with how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now operating. At the most recent BLM Advisory Board Meeting, the the majority of its members voted to exterminate the 44,000 captured Wild Horses and Burros being held in long-term holding facilities.

John Holland

John Holland, Equine Welfare Alliance

John Holland, President of the Equine Welfare Alliance said, “We believed right from the beginning that the use of all that stimulus money to gather so many horses was the BLM intentionally creating a crisis so they could force this decision later!”

Unless we move forward and truly bring an end to horse slaughter, it is likely to return to our soil. The vast majority of Americans want it banned just as they also want our wild horse and burro herds preserved, protected and humanely managed.

Many horse advocates are supporting the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, better known as The S.A.F.E. Act (S1214/H.R. 1942). This bill needs to be amended before we can support it. There are no effective enforcement provisions in it.

The S.A.F.E. Act, if it becomes law, could easily be circumvented based on some of the language in it including the phrase, “…the knowing sale or transport of equines…” Killer buyers and those sending equines to slaughter are unlikely to admit their true intentions. Why give them an out if they get caught to say that they did not know? We would like to know who wrote this bill and why they chose to write it this way. Decide for yourself. Here is the language for The S.A.F.E. Act:

We actually have all the ammunition we need to win the horse slaughter war.  A ground-breaking study published in Elsevier in 2010 clearly documented the dangerous health risks for people who eat the meat of horses that have been treated with the common drug, Phenylbutazone (or “Bute,” for short). This is proof that all of us can present to our lawmakers and the media as strong arguments to stop the return of horse slaughter to the U.S. Bute was important to use in this study because unlike some other drugs, it never leaves the body of the animal. Bute puts those consuming it at risk for a variety of cancers and blood diseases.

It is important to note that Bute is just one among numerous injectable, oral and topical drugs given to equines that has the disclaimer on the packaging, “Not intended for horses bred for human consumption.”

NO EQUINE is bred for human consumption in this country!

Here is a link to that important landmark study:

Further evidence is documented in the hundreds of articles and lawsuits that resulted from the shocking Horse Meat Food Fraud Scandal that gripped Europe in 2013 and now appears to be a threat once again. In addition, there is the 2015 Chapman University Study (also published by Elsevier) proving the unsavory discovery of horse meat and additional meats other than beef present in some chopped meat products in the American food supply. Given the lack of DNA species testing in this country, the presence of horse meat in our food supply may be more prevalent than believed.

Here is a link to the 2015 Chapman University Study:

In December of 2014, the European Union (EU) banned the import of horse meat products from Mexico because most of the equines slaughtered there came from the U.S. and therefore are not safe for human consumption (NOTE: The same U.S.-bred equines make up the majority of equines slaughtered in Canada for export to Europe and Japan, but inexplicably no such ban was placed on horse meat from Canada by the EU.) However, investigations indicate that there has been little to no decrease in the number of U.S.-bred equines being slaughtered in Mexico since the European ban took effect in January of 2015.

Where is all of this horse meat ending up if it’s not going to Europe or other identified markets? Investigators believe that some horse meat from Mexico is making its way into the American food supply. Food fraud is rampant all over the world. This country is not exempt.

Why is the slaughter of America’s equines tolerated? Ultimately, we are talking about morals and ethics. Horse slaughter is primarily used by special interests as a garbage disposal for those too greedy, callous and indifferent to take responsibility for the equines under their care.  How can we justify sending tens of thousands of equines across our borders into Mexico and Canada every year for people in other countries to eat knowing their meat is unfit for human consumption? The answer is simple:  There is no justification!

One reason I haven’t mentioned the extreme cruelty involved in horse slaughter is because of some sage comments made by philanthropist and horsewoman, Victoria McCullough, whom we honored in 2014:

“I believe that science is what will win for horses on the Hill – not cruelty. We’re inundated and desensitized to it. Cruelty is running over America – in our children, in our animals, in our education system – We are not accountable! But I learned that in order to win with the government it has to be intellectual and scientific.  I have to leave my emotions behind completely. I can’t take them with me. But they live with me every day.”

Thanks to Victoria’s efforts, Vice President Joe Biden attached language to the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 which President Obama signed into law to continue the defunding of horse meat inspectors in the U.S.

“We cannot win the border closure without defund because it’s a pyramid,” she said. “You have to defund horse slaughter in the U.S. first in order to have legality. There’s an issue. What are we really slaughtering and for whom? The arrogance and the lack of accountability are outrageous. And the liability does not disappear.”

Here is more information about the importance of what Vice President Biden accomplished for America’s horses in 2014:

We believe a remedy exists which would not involve a bill that needs to be passed or Congressional approval. Human Health and Food Safety, as outlined in this piece, are key to a federal ban.

Since both President Obama and Vice President Biden are acutely aware of all the dangers and risks associated with slaughtering horses for food, not to mention the liability factor, it could be a really wonderful and important part of the Obama/Biden legacy to end this unspeakable and un-American practice through an Executive Order and/or Federal Policy change to remove equines from the food chain.

Consequently, we need to start respectfully and earnestly imploring President Obama and Vice President Biden to take action before they leave office. Let them know how dire this situation truly is and how years of progress will evaporate if something is not done immediately. We look to them to save our horses.

As they say, there is strength in numbers, so please start by taking the time to sign our petition which is an appeal to be sent to both President Obama and Vice President Biden asking them to take action to ban horse slaughter before they leave office. To sign the petition, please see the list of What You Can Do below this article. (Note: Please also take the time to send a hand-written letter to each of them. Their mailing addresses are also provided below.)

If Obama and Biden do not act before the end of their administration, the fate of our horses will be placed in the hands of the next president. Now is the time for all of us to act. It is urgent that we act.


  • Please sign our petition appealing to both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to take action in banning horse slaughter entirely – both in the U.S., as well as stopping the transport of live equines from the U.S. across our borders into Mexico and Canada for slaughter or to any other country for that purpose. Please be sure to forward the petition and share it far and wide. We need a big and enthusiastic response in order for it to make a difference. Ideally, we will need 100,000 signatures over a 30-day period. That would ensure that both the President and V.P. would see it.
  • Please write a handwritten letter to both President Obama and Vice President Biden asking them to take steps to ban horse slaughter before they leave office. You have plenty of ammunition to use in the way of scientific studies, documentation and good arguments as provided in this article. Please use them, in addition to more abundant data now readily available online to back up any other points you wish to make. Please address separate letters to the President and V.P. Mail your letters to them in care of:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

This is a shot that is well worth taking. We owe it to our horses to try.

Together we can make a difference!

Thank you!

Susan Wagner, President
Equine Advocates

Hayden & Nelson, American Wild Mustangs

Hayden & Nelson, Wild American Mustangs at Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary, rescued from the BLM.


“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the world recognize it. Until we expand our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”

                                                                               Dr. Albert Schweitzer

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