by Priscilla Feral

A most unsavory collaboration between HSUS, ASPCA, the group Return to Freedom (RTF) and the meat industry revealed itself this spring when all four jointly submitted a proposal to Congress that outlined a longterm management plan for wild horses and burros in the American West.

HSUS et al’s vision of the future for wild horses— an anathema to ours—would kick them off public lands, allowing a few to remain in zoo-like settings. Six states have already lost their wild horse populations. Morally, that’s just criminal.

These groups have revealed they are poised to assist the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in removing 15,000 to 20,000 wild horses a year from public lands in the next three years, while also organizing a large-scale fertility program.

It comes as no surprise to us that the alliance agreed to drastically increase BLM’s use of fertility control. HSUS holds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration for the fertility pesticide PZP, and it was just a matter of time before the groups were on board with violent roundups. None of them have bothered to challenge roundups in the last four years or have joined our fight for broader implementation of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 to increase wild horse populations and habitat size.

HSUS never provided evidence that PZP doesn’t have negative side effects; it just offered information about the efficacy of PZP, and actually requested waivers for most of the studies.

Friends of Animals sued the EPA and argued its case against PZP use in an Oregon courthouse this summer in the hopes of cancelling the registration of PZP altogether. If a judge hands us a victory, wild mares will no longer be forcibly drugged with this fertility pesticide.

When HSUS, et al joined forces with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, they knew our arguments. They knew that wild horses have lost more than 20 million acres of habitat to cattle and sheep ranching since passage of the 1971 law. They also knew that cattle and sheep ranchers, along with energy interests, are treated like clients by BLM because wild horses compete for forage, water and habitat with doomed cows and sheep.

They knew that increased roundups mean wild horses are headed for extinction. After the public and other while horse advocates sounded off when they heard the news, Friends of Animals assured them not to lose hope, that really nothing’s changed and that those so-called animal advocacy groups are just out of the closet. They are now on the record as BLM assets.

Rest assured, FoA has faced the truth that BLM, a mouthpiece for the meat industry, has created a massive crisis of storing wild horses in holding prisons and has high hopes for slaughtering these horses. And we will continue to fight them every step of the way. We’ve already won more than a dozen legal challenges. Holding BLM’s feet to the fire through litigation is what will prevent mustangs from being ripped from their homes and families on federal public lands. That diligence will continue with or without well-heeled groups whose motivations appear to accommodate the meat industry while telling the public it’s for the animals.

Our vison is one of true ecological zones on federal public lands, where the landscape and animals are free from exploitation and management, just as the protection act intended. It is something we cannot give up on. We are thankful to our members who help us make that vision a reality through our legal efforts, which have become even more important as others throw in the towel.