The ongoing battle in the United States over the round-up of wild horses, an attempt by the Bureau of Land Management to control the population, has taken a new turn after a group accused the government of auctioning wild horses for slaughter.
The Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue bought up 169 horses being sold for slaughter in July by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency responsible for managing the horses that live wild in the United States. The BLM has responded saying the horses it sold were not wild.
Wild horses cannot be sold to slaughter houses, but the law does not apply to abandoned horses. President of Lifesavers, Jill Starr, went public with her accusations, telling the Reno Gazette Journal the BLM was "making up the rules as they go along." Starr also claims "The BLM just called them estrays to take away their protection." Starr has said that only 30 of the 172 horses that were up for auction were abandoned, and the rest were wild. "It doesn't take a biologist to know that these are not ranch horses gone wild."
The Bureau apparently contradicted its own records, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. First a spokesman said the horses put up for auction in July were strays, but the local BLM office later admitted it's own census records showed a herd of 168 wild horses had been living in the area where the round-up took place in July.
Activists state another slaughter auction has been scheduled for September 18th. Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue claims the horses are wild horses that were privately owned, and the organization is currently working to raise funds and gather sponsors to buy up some of the horses to save them.
Presumably in response to the court challenges launched against the horse-roundups, along with public criticism of the BLM, the agency announced in a press release issued in late August that it had asked the "... National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) to make an independent technical review of the Wild Horse and Burro Program to ensure that the BLM is using the best science available in managing wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands." The study, anticipated to take two years, might start in early 2011, and will cost an estimated $1.5 million.
The August round-up of wild horses in Nevada resulted in the deaths of 21 Mustangs, reported 8NewsNow. The deaths prompted an activist to take the BLM to court, because the BLM had banned public access from the public lands during the round-up. Even though the court ordered the BLM to allow the public access to observe the next round-up, the BLM simply moved the horse trap to a privately owned ranch, and the public was not allowed entry onto the grounds, said 8NewsNow. The BLM faced fierce criticism from anti-roundup opponents for continuing the roundup during the summer, the hottest part of the year, and just after the mares had foaled.
A two month old foal named Honey Bandit has become the poster horse for the movement that is attempting to stop the BLM round-up of wild horses in the west. Reported by Redding, Honey Bandit, whose life was hanging by a precarious thread, is now cited as a reason why the BLM should end its round-up of wild horses.
Honey Bandit was found amongst a herd of rounded-up wild horses, starving and beaten. BLM officials claimed the foal's mother had stopped nursing the infant horse, and when the foal tried to nurse from other mares, was kicked. Activists dispute that story, saying it took more than one night for the foal to reach its emaciated state.
Honey Bandit is now doing somewhat better, not needing to be on an IV any longer, reported Dottie Smith.
Activists have been trying to legally block the round-up, arguing there is no need for the gathering up of wild horses since last year, but have not yet been successful.
The BLM has maintained the gathering of horses is needed because the population has grown too large to be sustainable.
The BLM is currently rounding-up wild horses in the Twin Peaks area of Nevada, where it has been working since August. The Bureau has reported the deaths of eight horses and burros that had been rounded-up, saying the deaths were not related to the gather.