Thanks to advocates who filmed wild mustangs being whipped in the face, kicked in the head, dragged by a rope and repeatedly shocked during the Nevada roundup this summer, BLM officials were forced to review their procedures.
Sadly the agency concluded that some horses were mistreated during the Triple B roundup, but not to the level of calling it inhumane.
BLM Director Bob Abbey determined that he could fix the “poor practices” exhibited by agency workers and contractors from Sun J Livestock by giving them additional training.
Abbey admitted there were some instances of helicopters following horses too closely or chasing them too long. And he acknowledged that there was “excessive and inappropriate use of electrical prods, as well as wranglers kicking horses, slamming gates against them and twisting their tails to persuade them to load onto trailers.” He told the media this type of treatment would not be tolerated in the future.
“Aggressive and rough handling of wild horses is not acceptable, and we are actively taking steps to ensure that such behavior is not repeated,” said Abbey.
The BLM team that reviewed the videos recommended the agency start tracking incidents of mistreatment; a concept that seems like it should have already been part of the roundup process. They also suggested showing the videos to the workers to help them understand what is considered acceptable behavior toward an animal.
Altogether the team made 11 recommendations to change BLM wild horse roundup procedures.
Abbey said he is “instituting a proactive process for conducting internal reviews of many aspects of the program to ensure that we are moving toward the ‘new normal’ of wild horse and burro management.”
Wild horse protection organizations had mixed responses to the BLM review.
“This review is a first step in addressing the cruelty that is pervasive in the BLM’s wild horse and burro program, and we commend the BLM review team for its honesty,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the Americas Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition of more than 40 groups that includes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Anne Novak, founder of the California-based advocacy group Protect Mustangs questioned BLM’s definition of inhumane?”
Laura Leigh, from the Wild Horse Freedom Federation said, “This is just words, not action. They say, ‘We found this wrong, but we did nothing wrong,’ which is typical BLM contradictory speech.”
The government’s wild horse program began in 1971 as a way to “protect wild horse herds and the rangelands that support them.” Animal rights advocates have long complained that the roundups are cruel because they traumatize the horses and many are injured or killed.
About 33,000 wild horses live in 10 Western states and half of those are located in Nevada. Another 40,000 have been rounded up and live in government owned facilities.
Photo from 29604926@NO8EdThomes via flickr.