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  • Writer's pictureStaci-lee Sherwood

The Wild Horse Roundups

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

Inside America’s most rogue federal agency the Bureau of Land Management

Photo credit: Wild Horse Education of the Antelope roundup august 2021

By Staci-lee Sherwood

The immorality and illegality of their policies

As far back as 1961 Americans have known about the brutal practice of rounding up the wild horses and burros that have freely roamed the lands for centuries. The movie ‘The misfits’ cast movie star Clarke Gable as a mustang wrangler and Marilyn Monroe as his love interest. Perhaps the audience was lost in Gable’s stardom or Monroe’s beauty and failed to grasp the brutality of the movie’s real story. It’s clear even in a movie the depraved indifference the almost psychotic version of manliness and the brutal suffering these animals endured at the hands of these wranglers. Yet the unnecessary roundups continue all for the livestock industry.

To watch the abuse these iconic animals who have served humankind for centuries be so tortured and abused, even killed, is nauseating. No sane person can inflict such pain. Though the last horse meat rendering facility closed a few years ago it’s believed there is a pipeline for either staff of the BLM or the contractors they hire to funnel horses into Mexico to sell for their meat.

For more than twenty years I’ve been following the management policies of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as they relate to our wild horses and burros. Right away I could see they lacked any logic or humanity to them. It didn’t take long to realize the driving force behind the so called roundups had everything to do with the wishes of the ranchers, along with many in the energy sector who were chomping at the bit to drill and mine on public land.

Industry loves public land because it allows them to reap bigger profits while keeping the cost down because doing business with government means they pay pennies on the dollar for the land. They also have zero accountability if they destroy it in the process. Ranchers have long been able to let their cattle graze on public land for a nominal fee. This helps keeps the price of beef down by falsely undercharging the consumer. The real cost would be much higher if ranchers had to pay the government the same rate they would be paying if this was privately owned land.

No way to treat the icon of the American wild west

When people think of the west they conjure up images of cactus, desert and wild horses roaming free galloping among the canyons. For many living in the west those images can often seem like a hindrance to a booming economy based more on those seeking to milk the government as these billionaire welfare ranchers do. During these roundups an observer can expect to see the horrors of trampled foals, separated families and bands, horses run into barbed wire, horses and burros literally hit by the helicopters, unconscionable abuse by psychotic men punching/kicking/stabbing and shooting these animals, no vet care, outdoor pens no anesthesia during castration, overcrowded corrals, run to exhaustion, broken legs, torn hooves and many quietly sold for horse meat in Europe. In 2013 Animals’ Angels uncovered shocking actions taken by the BLM and the lies they told to the public to cover it up.

‘According to the contract paperwork, Nevada By-Products was chosen over landfill disposal due to cost effectiveness and the fact that "Due to the sensitive nature of the public to the wild horse and burro program, it is necessary to dispose of these large animals as quickly and discretely (sic) as possible and Reno Rendering fulfills these requirements."

"It should also be noted that in the contract specifications, the NV BLM estimated approximately 200 adults and 100 foals would need to be sent for rendering each year. Animals' Angels latest Freedom of Information Act request only increased our concerns over the BLM's treatment of wild horses and burros. Among other things, the BLM's Palomino Valley Facility in Nevada seems to be drastically under-reporting the actual number of horses and burros that have died under its "care."

Other concerns are the death rate of stallions after gelding, some suggest could be as high as 10%. We know several horses die after each roundup, many of which are foals barely a few weeks old. There has also been deaths of colts being gelded on site, not in a vets office where medical care exists, who are under 6 months old. Witness have seen this abuse take place as well. Lies from the BLM are common. Their claims about starving horses in such bad shape they have to be shot never ring true especially from an agency with a long well documented history of fraud and abuse. As you can see from the photo below it’s only after the horses are taken into BLM custody that they starve and wither away from neglect.

Photo credit Meg Frederick Photography

According to Wild Horse Education the Jackson Mountain Roundup day 4 on September 2021 included these notes :

"Animals Gathered: 122 (29 Stallions, 65 Mares, and 28 Foals), Deaths: 4

The vast majority of the wild horses we have seen are not in the “dire” shape described by BLM. We have seen a handful in really rough shape, the majority are not “walking skeletons.” The BLM specialist stated “These horses are in such bad shape their minds are gone.”

Why the government really wants the horses gone

Livestock livestock livestock. That is the main but not entire reason. Most ranchers these days can be described as welfare ranchers. They pay pennies on the dollar for use of public land by their cows, sheep and whatever other animals they have to graze while it’s the public that bears the greater expense. First the ranchers exploit and destroy the land then blame it on the species who are native and wild and whose home they are destroying. Horse removal is BIG business to the tune of 10s of millions of dollars.

Companies like Cattoor Livestock have netted a nice nest egg of over 20 million over the years the government has hired them to remove our wild horses and burros. Abuse and murder, what else would you call deliberate taking of a healthy life you then lie about afterwards, is rampant and constantly caught on film. Yet the media blackout on these egregious problems is deafening. The growing number of stakeholders who profit from this atrocity grows by the day and digging for the truth takes patience and time but even then it’s not likely to uncover all the deception that the federal government is involved in.

First let’s look at the history of the BLM. In 1812 the federal government first created the General Land Office, which was responsible for all public land sales, patents, and entries, as established within the Treasury Department to oversee disposition of ceded and acquired lands. Then in 1939 the US Grazing Service was created after the Taylor Grazing Act passed in 1934. This act had authorized grazing districts, regulation of grazing, and public rangeland improvements in Western states (excluding Alaska) and established the Division of Grazing (later renamed U.S. Grazing Service) within the Department of the Interior.

Throughout the post Civil War years a slew of acts passed swiftly through Congress including the General Mining Law, Timber and Stone Act and the Carey Act which established a precedent for mining and grazing on public lands. Then in 1946 these two departments morphed in what is now the Bureau of Land Management which is charged with overseeing over 245 million acres of public land. While there is precedent for private use on public land that does not equal a takeover of public land or the wildlife, plant life or minerals that are found on it.

In 1959 the first pro wild horse law was passed with the addition of the Wild Horse Protection Act (also known as the "Wild Horse Annie Act") prohibits hunting of wild horses and burros on public land by aircraft or motor vehicles. Following this were the conservation laws Wilderness Act, Land and Water Conservation Fund , National Environmental Policy Act and finally the 1971 bill Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act which mandates protection and management of these animals on public lands managed by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service. In 1973 the landmark ESA the Endangered Species Act was passed with high hopes this would prevent or at least slow down extinction of many species seemingly on the edge of vanishing. Supposedly these two laws should have given wild horses protection from the decades long program of removal. However words on paper mean nothing without enforcement.

Over the years I’ve traveled extensively throughout the west, camping from Wyoming and Montano to Utah, Nevada and Colorado. Not once did I ever see a wild horse, not one horse not one time. I did get to see two wild burros just once in a desert. I covered thousands of miles over several years time but never came upon the throngs of roaming horses the ranchers, miners, hunters and government employees claimed were overpopulated and decimating the land. I did come across throngs of wild uncontrollable people, some local and others tourists, who were roaming clearly overpopulated and decimating the land with trash. I don’t recall any government agency in charge of that problem but there should be.

In just a few months Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who just married a developer who is not native American as she is, has shown her true colors while relying on her dna to squash any potential detractors from challenging her decisions. Her actions seem to cower to the ranchers wishes in their ongoing pursuit to wipe out what little wildlife we have left. The BLM is so infested with ranchers and other nefarious stakeholders that their Appropriate Management Level (AML) numbers are solely based on want the ranchers want. This is tricky because the ranchers, followed by the oil and gas industry and other mining concerns, truly want all wildlife gone not just horses and burros.

Because these animals have the love and appreciation of the majority of Americans removing them permanently has to be done slowly systematically and with justification, like the use of buzz words drought , starvation and emergency. None of these words are based in fact from any of the wild horse advocates who observe the horses, land, food and roundups. “Part of their mandate is to allow for the free roaming behavior of these horses,” said Theresa Barbour, a consultant and legal researcher for Citizens Against Equine Slaughter. “We feel the AMLs that have been set traditionally have no basis in science. They set these AMLs based on the number of horses that the ranchers are willing to be out there.”

Whether gravely misguided or something more sinister the Humane Society and ASPCA support the ‘Path forward’ which was touted as a sound plan for wild horse management. As with everything else concerning the BLM no way can they be trusted to manage anything living let alone our dwindling wild horse and burro population. Ironically these groups lobbied for more money for the BLM roundups which directly goes to the abusive Cattoor family and death of these animals they claim they are trying to save. If this is how we save them they stand no chance at all. If you would like to voice your complaint about the wild horse and burro roundups and abuse here is some contact info

Find your Senators and Representatives: President Biden: | 202-456-1111 Vice President Harris: | 202-456-1111 Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland: | 202-208-3100 BLM Deputy Director, Policy and Programs, Nada Wolff Culver: 202-208-3801

Click here to listen to an interview about how to save wild horses by using them to prevent forest fires

Remember our wild horses & burros only have YOU as their voice

Photos credit Wild Horse Education 2021 Photo credit Wild Horse Education Cattoor helicopter

hoto credit wildhorseeducation

Also published on Discover Science 2020 May 4, 2022

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