Friday, October 23, 2015

The Bureau of Land Management's Cruelty to Animals

The numbers of horses and burros living on public land doubles every four years. These herds have been under the Bureau of Land Management supervision and protection since 1971. Because the Bureau has failed to control the number of horses and burros being born thousands of animals have and are receiving cruel treatment when they are moved to holding pens.

In 2013 NBC News filmed the Bureau of Land Management contractors causing wild horses and burros pain and extreme distress during roundups (gatherings). Anyone looking at the film footage would question why the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors were not charged with cruelty to animals. At the time of the filming the Bureau was spending 1.5% of its budget on birth control which is why there is no room for the thousands of equids who are removed from public lands every year. Forty six million dollars is expended annually to care for the 50,000 horses in BLM captivity.

Roundups/gatherings are cruel occasions for it means that helicopter pilots are allowed to chase the animals sometimes for miles until they reach barbed wire enclosures. Once inside the animals respond with panic and try to escape by repeatedly hitting the fences with face and feet. Looking at the NBC film footage it is easy to see the gouge wounds. The barbed wire injuries are grievous and avoidable. Surely the Bureau of Land Management executives are aware that electric current fences are far more humane deterrents.

It isn't just roundups that stress the animals. When the horses and burros are moved they are crammed into trucks. To accomplish this task the men repeatedly strike the rump of the animals with electric prods. Sometimes the panic-stricken animals fall and when they do they are unable to regain their footing because of the number of animals being transported. Once down they are then trampled by hoofs of the other animals packed in the truck. Less crowded vehicles would stop these horrific deaths. The BLM has long been criticized for their holding pens because they confine the animals in small enclosures that provide no form of shelter from harsh weather conditions. Responding to public criticism the Bureau has begun adding shelter to their holding facilities. Samples of shelters may be found here. Most of the horses and burros removed from western states spend the rest of their lives in confinement.

Almost all aspects of the BLM program, the roundups, transportation and holding pens evidence an agency unconcerned with the animals' wellbeing.

Congress directed the Bureau of Land Management in 1971 to protect the wild horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment and death. Even though the wild animals are harassed and subjected to painful injuries, sometimes death, the Bureau says the gatherings are “necessary and justified.” It is not known how helicopters came to be used in roundups but this herding technique is in reality nothing more than a cruel sport. Young and old animals do not survive the torturous chase.

Those viewing the NBC documentary and other images on the internet would say that there is no justification for the mistreatment that the BLM horses and burros receive from their handlers.

Nor is there any reason that BLM officials did not commence birth control policies more than two decades ago. If they had adopted birth control practices, the agency would not have an excess animal problem and the horses and burros would not have suffered the cruel consequences of being gathered.

After reviewing the Bureau of Land Management practices the National Academy of Sciences in their 2013 report called the gatherings and long term storage facilities " expensive and unproductive ." The NAS report raised the question of why the Bureau had not initiated full scale population control measures long ago. PZP, a proven contraception vaccine, has controlled the horse population on Assateague Island and has and is being used to limit deer conception all over the U.S.

The person responsible for the animals' wellbeing is Neil Kornze and he was appointed Director in the spring of 2013. Mr. Kornze has served the bureau since 2011 and has been on the job long enough to know that his federal agency has failed its mission to properly care for the animals under its supervision.

It is obvious that a "good ole boy network" is making decisions for the bureau. This group of people, usually men, do not believe in birth control and they are oblivions to animal pain and suffering. These
individuals know that it is commonplace for animals to die or suffer serious injury during the gatherings. Aircraft roundups should be outlawed.

Judging from Mr. Kornze's indifference to the problems under discussion, he should step down. His departure would allow Congress to appoint a Director who would make birth control a priority. When the herd populations are stabilized and the 50,000 horses in captivity die of natural causes, the costs to taxpayers will be reduced significantly.

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