When cows are pitted against wild animals, more often than not, it is the wild animals that suffer. This is a sad fact that we are having to come face to face with more frequently as the desire to expand livestock grazing lands across the U.S. increases. We’ve seen wild horses rounded up and held in holding facilities, entire wolf packs killed off , and coyotes killed on demand. And all of this action has been carried out thanks to the influence that cattle interests have over the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Most recently, the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Advisory and Burro Management recommended that the government kill off 45,000 wild horses who are currently being held in BLM holding facilities.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), “The Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted to recommend euthanasia of all unadopted wild horses and burros now in government holding facilities throughout the United States.”

If you’re shocked that this committee would vote to simply cull thousands of the animals they are supposed to be protecting, don’t be. Wild horses in the U.S. have been under attack for decades now – and it’s directly intertwined with our appetite for meat and dairy. Despite the fact that there are only 67,000 wild horses left in the U.S., the BLM has decided that clearing out their holding facilities (possibly to make room for more wild horses?) is the best course of action.

How in the world did cattle ranchers convince the advisory board to recommend this measure? Well, it all comes down to a convoluted numbers game. California Congressman Tom McClintock has claimed that wild horses are overpopulated, expensive to take care of, and most importantly, are “eating up all the grass that could be used to support cattle” and humans too, for that matter. In his humble opinion, slaughter and surgical sterilization is the most “humane” way to deal with the problem.

As Ginger Kathrens, the Director of Cloud Foundation (and the only board advisory member to vote “no” on this proposition) who has studied wild horses for the last decade, pointed out, wild horses are far from overpopulated. In fact, they are managed at levels “far below the population required for genetic viability” and are in danger of disappearing for good. She also relayed the fact that livestock outnumber horses and burros 47 to 1, and livestock are allocated 82 percent of the forage. Seems like if anyone is “starving out” anyone, it’s the other way around . . .

While wild horses shouldn’t even have to compete for their land with cattle, there are other ways to responsibly control their populations. As Kathrens shares, the BLM Wild Horse Advisory and Burro Management could use birth control darts that would successfully mitigate any overpopulation problem. In their statement on this topic, HSUS wrote, “Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.” Meaning there is plenty of backing for a more humane option.

Whether the BLM will be convinced to use this alternative method instead is yet to be seen, but we certainly hope they will see how wildly biased it is to favor cattle in this manner. In the long term, we can all help wild horses, and other species, have a chance at survival by leaving meat and dairy off of our plates more often. It’s a tiny decision for us but makes a world of difference to animals around the world.

Image source: Yongyut Kumsri/Shutterstock