Today I received an In Defense of Animals flyer re our free-roaming horses in
the West. Sadly, Wild Horse Annie would have been appalled at the treatment
these magnificent creatures are receiving today -- courtesy of vested interests
and some members of the US Congress.
In 1971 Velma Bronn Johnston (Wild Horse Annie) testified before Congress re
the wild horses of the West and the result was the wonderful Wild Free-Roaming
Horse and Burro Act.
Velma Bronn was born in 1912 and grew up to be an indefatigable friend of the
wild horses and burros. She herself owed a mustang mare a debt of gratitude.
As a baby, the mare provided her with milk when needed as her parents crossed
the desert in a covered wagon.
In 1950, while driving to work, Velma witnessed a gruesome scene --wild horses
crammed into a truck destined for a pet food slaughterhouse. She saw blood
oozing from the back of the truck. It was the blood of a yearling being trampled
to death. She decided that this should be exposed to the public eye.
An astute executive secretary, Annie amassed many facts and evidence which
she effectively organized to present to all economic and social branches of
society. She cultivated many contacts from school children to ranchers to
businessmen, biologists, and politicians. And of course, the rest is history.
How sad that thirty years later her wonderful work for her beloved wild horses
and burros was eviserated by the stealth Burns Amendment of 2004 which
former Senator Burns of Montana inserted into an appropriations bill which
allowed the Bureau of Land Management to sell older and unadoptable
animals at livestock auctions, where they would most likely be bought by kill
In defense of his beleaguered Amendment, Senator Burns said: "I'm in the
livestock business, and I've bought and sold horses all my life. Basically, the
marketplace works." The unmarked writer of this post observed that Senator
Burns needed to be reminded that he was in the U.S. Senate, not in the
Re the use of public lands- a 1991 GAO report found no evidence that wild
horses have a negative impact on public lands. In 1982 the National Academy
of Sciences reported that private livestock was the primary cause of overgrazing
on public lands and that this use of public lands for private cattle represented
less than 3% of America's beef supply.
The BLM usually claims there is a problem with too many wild horses even
though solutions were then and are now available. A March 2004 USGS report
showed that fertility control methods would save over 7.7 million tax-dollars
annually. Instead of using federal funds for costly and traumatic round-ups to
minimal in-the-wild management would save millions. However, there is no
over-population problem today. It seems that the BLM are hell bent on destroying
the 30,000 horses left from a former high of 100,000.
The BLM continues to round up these hapless, innocent horses by chasing
them with helicopters over dangerous terrain toward capture pens. Here captivity,
uncertain futures, and sometimes death awaits them. IDA noted that most horses
were terrified - frozen with fear, but that one courageous horse fought back and WON.
He jumped a 6-foot fence and broke through the surrounding barbed wire which
painfully tore at his flesh. This remarkable horse showed man that he wanted and
deserved his freedom at all costs. He was appropropriately named FREEDOM.
In writing their account, IDA recalls the 1971 law passed to protect these
magnificent wild horses and I quote in part:
'It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be
protected from capture, branding, harrassment, or death; and to accomplish this
they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part
of the natural system of the public lands."
And then IDA notes that it was a dream come true for millions of Americans who
believed that the wild horses are a part of our national heritage and they needed
to be protected and cared for.
But sadly IDA reports: "Instead, the BLM, doing the dirty work of the cattle
industry and corrupt politicians, systematically over the years removed
thousands upon thousands of wild horses through cruel, unnecessary and
illegal roundups-sending many thousands of them to their deaths in Canadian,
Mexican and American Slaughter houses as they confiscated millions of acres
of land that had been reserved for the horses, turning it over to the ever-greedy,
every-growing cattle industry."
Re the slaughtering of the horses, I urge people of compassion to go to the
internet where there are horrendous accounts of horse slaughter. These poor
horses suffered long hours while being transported - many cramped together
with no food or water. And then the actual slaughtering is horrific because of
the horses' size. I recommend anyone wanting to learn more about this sad
chapter in the wild horses of the West to read especially the Laura Moretti
internet link. Over the years she has written so compellingly and well about
animal issues and her acount of the horses' suffering during this period needs
to be read especially by those who see nothing wrong with slaughtering
I believe that in 2005 Congress passed the Horse Protection Act which effectively
closed down foreign slaughterhouses in the United States. However, I also
believe that I read that there are loopholes which allow horses to be transported
across our two borders into Canada and Mexico where sadly they still suffer not
only from the long transport but the cruel slaughtering which awaits them
at their destination.
In December 2009 IDA filed a law suit in a Washington, D.C. Court against the
BLM for its illegal roundups and holding facilities. Though the judge denied a
temporary injunction to stop the roundup, he said the case had merits and has
allowed it to proceed. But will there be time left for the few thousand wild horses