Wild horses in the western United States have been under attack for many years. Their habitat is being stolen and their numbers decimated. The disgraceful reason these wild horses are hunted down and slaughtered comes down to our everyday food choices. Because of our huge appetite for meat and dairy, America’s western public land where wild horses roam is being usurped and exploited by cattle ranchers.
Wild horses have been threatened by ranchers so severely and for so long that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was established as far back as 1971 to prevent their impending extinction. Under this act, wild horses are recognized as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” that “enrich the lives of the American people” and are supposedly protected from “capture, branding, harassment, [and] death.” Yet, because of a series of irresponsible amendments passed by Congress, thousands of wild horses are subjected to harassment, capture, and even death every year. Consequently, their numbers have fallen to below 32,000 according to American Wild Horse Preservation (AWHP).
For over forty years now, the United States’ Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been eliminating horses from their wilderness home so that cattle ranchers can use the land to raise cows for beef. In the western United States ranchers’ cows now outnumber wild horses 50 to 1, with this figure set to rise as more horses are eliminated and cattle ranches continue to expand and utilize more and more land.
This horse is just one of the thousands facing an uncertain future because of cattle ranchers. Seen as a grazing competitor for valuable livestock, he may well endure the same treatment as countless others who have been chased, confined, and slaughtered.
The federal government leases the land to cattle ranchers chiefly for monetary gain. Indeed, the BLM is keen to collect the livestock grazing tax payable by cattle ranchers for their cows’ use of the land. In order to provide the land to ranchers — for them to raise the animals they will then slaughter — authorities are happy to rid the profitable land of its unwanted inhabitants by any means necessary.
Using low-flying helicopters to herd the terrified animals, the BLM removes wild horses from public lands in Western states by the thousands. In what are known as “roundups,” the frightened animals are chased into stockpiling facilities, losing the freedom they are entitled to in place of cramped captivity where they endure being separated from their families, branded with hot irons and worse. The horses who survive the violent roundups are then kept confined in holding facilities, until they are “auctioned off,” more often than not to slaughterhouses.
The BLM blatantly denies that wild horses are being sent to slaughter, yet figures indisputably prove this is happening. Most recently, an investigation led by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that 1,794 captured wild mustangs had been sold to a known kill buyer, Tom Davis, who bought the horses for as little as $10 each and then made a huge profit selling them to be slaughtered in Mexico for horse meat.
Who’s Responsible for This?
While the Bureau of Land Management, federal governments, and the U.S. government all play a major part in these wild horses’ plight, the chief culprit is animal agriculture and those who continue to support it. This means that if you eat meat or dairy, you are funding the war on wild horses.
The interests of the powerful animal agriculture industry are placed ahead of animal welfare, environmental concerns and the general public’s will. Indeed, over 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter, with most being against wild horses being chased down by helicopters and rounded up in ranches before being eventually sent to slaughter. In fact, a national poll found that 72 percent of Americans favor protecting wild horses, while 66 percent think the BLM’s approach to wild horse management is an inefficient use of tax dollars and 62 percent support the repeal of the law that allows the BLM to sell wild horses for slaughter.
Unfortunately, taxpayers foot the bill for this cruel practice. In 2016, the cost of the federal wild horse program is expected to reach $80 million in taxpayer money. This doesn’t include the estimated $500 million annual cost to American taxpayers in government subsidies to the welfare ranching system responsible for these horses’ loss of habitat.
What You Can Do
The best way to ensure you aren’t supporting government roundups of wild horses is to stop supporting the industry responsible. The production of meat and dairy drives this cruelty and condones not only animal abuse and environmental degradation but also the rapid and painful demise of entire wild species.
Wild horses are not the only species in danger of extinction because of the meat and dairy industries. Deforestation, water depletion, air pollution and habitat destruction caused by animal agriculture are resulting in the sixth mass species extinction event our planet is currently experiencing.
Aside from leaving meat and dairy off your plate, you can take action for wild horses by supporting the work of organizations working hard to protect these animals. These include In Defense of Animals, Wild Horse Preservation, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, and the National Wild Horse Association.
Finally, you can add your name to this petition urging Congress to end the senseless slaughter of American wild horses.
To learn how you can use your food choices to help animals like wild horses, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.
Image source: Dave Showalter/ILCP