Roisin Groake | Contributing Writer
As we speak, the wild horses and donkeys of the American West are being systematically eradicated by their own government. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was passed in America to allow for 88 million acres to be left alone, to allow for wild-life preservation, but this is absolutely not occurring. And now it is the animals who are suffering.
Instead of the animals being left free to roam this land, the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS), which were mandated by the 1971 Act to protect these creatures, have faced pressure from corporations to remove them so the land can be used to increase turnover for major companies. This land grazing is not profitable for the government, and is maintained by enormous taxpayer subsidies.
The animals have been denied their free roaming land, and are now being ”rounded up” and placed in highly controlled facilities not accessible to the public. These ‘round-ups’ are fierce, cruel and terrifying for the animals, many of which become injured or are even killed in the process, which is performed using traps and helicopters. The BLM declare that they are performing these round-up’s humanely although they often impose no fly zones in the area of these round ups. You would have to think why?
A wild animal would never have been exposed to these procedures before; it would have been alien to them and this leads to understandable fear and panic.
Over 50,000 wild horses are currently being held by the BLM, and sadly the number of wild horses still roaming free on the US public lands is under 25,000.
The land is being pilfered from these creatures, to make room for the livestock industry; meaning profitable cattle and sheep ranchers will be utilizing the land to further their own corporate interests. Lucrative oil drilling and natural gas drilling and fracking industries are also pressuring the BLM to obtain this land.
Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist, advises that horses, as non ruminants, unlike cattle and sheep, are more suited to this land, they do not have to digest as meticulously and can handle coarser and drier foliage.
The Wild Horse and Burro Fund is a non profit organisation looking to protect the wild horses and donkeys of the American West. They aim to quash the misconceptions out there about the roaming wild horses. Anti-wild horse groups declare that the animals are doing ecological damage, but simple science proves that this is not only is this not the case, the wild horses play a critical role in benefiting the ecology. For example, the droppings from the animals releases nutrients back into the soil, aid in seed dispersion, and even reduces the risk of forest fires occurring.
The anti-wild horse groups maintain that the wild horses are out of control, but with so few remaining at present, this claim is simply not valid. These groups claim that the wild horses are not native, although extensive scientific testing has proved this, again, to be untrue. The very first wild horses originated from North America, and migrated using a land bridge between continents up to 3.9 million years ago. The fact that many of the horses have been domesticated does not change their internal biology; they can all be dated back to the original wild horses from the North of America. In analysing the DNA of a fossilised horse found only in North America, and another species which was known to have been reintroduced, it was determined that they are both genetically equivalent and are therefore related.
Conservationists believe the removal of the horses from the land will have negative effects on the land and in fact many areas around the world are seeking to reintroduce the horse population back into their ecosystem, for the many benefits the soil and land will obtain.
This truly is harrowing for anyone who is a horse lover, or any animal lover, but there are things that can be done, individually and in groups. I fear we are at a critical point; the public should be made aware, before it is too late and it loses the last remaining herds of wild horses and donkeys. Any kind of publicity for the work that the Wild Horse and Burro Fund do, is favourable, and doing your part in helping us to our goal of saving these majestic creatures is simple. You can look on the website www.thewildhorseconspiracy.org where you can sign the petition, make donations, purchase photos of the animals in their habitat, or purchase Craig Downers book, entitled The Wild Horse Conspiracy. Also liking our Facebook page The Wild Horse Conspiracy, and following our Twitter page @save_wildhorses and following us on Tumblr http://wildhorseconspiracy.tumblr.com/ are all encouraged.
Unless urgent action is taken, the wild horses and donkeys in today’s America face a bleak future. Horses have done more for humans than any other domesticated animal; they impacted on humankind’s development and survival, they were our transport, but most of all, our companions and they deserve to have us fight for them when no one else will. Our aim is simple: to restore the animals to where they belong and secure their long term future.
Photo by Craig C Downer