Is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Humane?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently ran an article exposing so-called “humane” methods that government contractors used in a recent wild horse roundup in the Butte Valley northwest of Ely, Nevada. The article broke my heart.

In an August 16, 2001 roundup, Utah-based Sun J. Livestock, Inc., among other things, used helicopters in extended, close up chases, whipped and kicked some horses in the head, dragged them by ropes and electrically shocked them as part of the capture and loading process. Now, what part of this activity could anyone brand “humane”? Who does this stuff? Why is any roundup necessary?

 Ranchers claim that wild horses and burros damage grasslands used by cattle and wildlife. However, as the singer Carole King pointed out in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, cattle tend to gather and graze around water sources, whereas horses roam and feed at large. I can’t speak for the effects on wildlife, but given Ms. King’s statement, how do wild horses and burros threaten the cattle food source? I don’t see it. Is the government looking to make some money from the sale of wild horses to slaughterhouses and meat processors?

To be fair, I must interject here that Bureau director Bob Abbey is implementing procedures to track, review and improve animal treatment methods during roundups, including additional training for contractors and agency personnel. But is this enough? Would these practices have continued indefinitely were it not for the videotapes members of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation and other activists shot exposing inhumane roundup practices at gathers conducted during July and August, 2011?

Neither wild nor domesticated equines deserve such harsh treatment at the hands of the human race that they have faithfully served for centuries. Roundups must stop.

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