Find a humane way to treat horse overpopulation


Above my bed hangs a large framed illustration of two mustangs frolicking, the wind blowing through their manes and tails. Wild and free.

Sadly, this iconic symbol of western spirit, the wild horse, is the latest animal under attack by the Trump administration and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.

Wild mustangs have been protected for almost three decades, but Trump’s 2018 budget calls for “humane euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals.” This means rounding up beautiful, healthy wild horses and burros, and either euthanizing them or selling them for slaughter.

Although the last U.S. horse slaughterhouse closed in 2007, this has not stopped the unethical and inhumane transport of horses, donkeys and burros to Canada or Mexico to be brutally killed for overseas meat consumption.

Tens of thousands of terrified and suffering horses are sent to these meat processing plants each year. Now the wild mustang will be added to this slaughter.

It is already common practice for mustangs to be routinely rounded up and kept in long-term holding pens, and then auctioned off — theoretically to loving homes. This does not always happen.

In one instance, Colorado rancher Tom Davis bought nearly 1,800 mustangs from the government, then turned around and sold them to slaughterhouses in Mexico. Although this is inhumane and criminal behavior, no charges were ever filed against Davis.

Imagine the terror these animals experience when being rounded up by helicopters. They whinny in terror, become exhausted from running, and many times, babies and weaker horses are trampled. 

When the meat men send them to slaughter, the frightened animals are packed into trucks with no water, in excessive heat, and after hours of being brutally stuffed into these trucks, many horse’s legs are broken, others collapse, or die en route.

The amount of wild horses has been increasing, but the land management bureau has not figured out a humane or sensible solution, and they admit to having no plan. More than 45,000 wild horses are languishing in the holding pens, and more than 70,000 more roam on public land in western states. 

Past administrations have proposed creating preserves in the Midwest and east to house some of these horses, but money never materialized, and the population kept growing. 

Some conservationists say the grazing lands can only sustain about 23,000 horses. Meanwhile, ranchers push for more public land for their cattle or sheep. Our public land. The mustang’s land.

Instead of thinking creatively and with compassion, this administration jumps to killing these beautiful animals. Why not expand the use of contraceptives, make the public aware of the plight of the mustangs, and push adoption? 

These techniques have dramatically lowered the euthanasia rate of dogs and cats in shelters. 

Millions of dollars are used to feed the horses currently in holding pens. Why not allocate some of this money and move the horses to other lands and reseed the lands that are becoming barren? 

Marketing and creative thought can work for the horses and burros.

Advocacy organizations agree. It’s just easier for the administration to put a bullet or a bolt in the mustang’s forehead, or sell them for slaughter.

If caring people don’t act now, these majestic horses will be brutally killed — or as the government phrases it, culled. 

There is a Change.org petition asking Zinke to prohibit the slaughter of wild horses, “Stop the Slaughter of America’s Wild Mustangs.”

Please sign it. Innocent horses’ lives depend on it.

Dawn Eaton,