An advocacy group in the US is calling for nationwide protests over the state of the federally managed wild horse program.
Protect Mustangs made the call following growing concern that some wild horses may have been sent to slaughter.
It has also voiced its concern over the use of emergency musters, sparked by drought conditions, to reduce wild horse numbers, and recent horse deaths in musters.
“We are calling for peaceful protests as well as candlelight vigils so no more wild horses will die from roundups, be tortured by the helicopters or sold to kill-buyers for delicacy meat abroad,” its executive director, Anne Novak, said.
“The public is outraged.”
Last week, an investigation by reporter Dave Philipps published on the website ProPublica raised questions over the fate of 1700 federally protected wild horses sold at $US10 a head to a known pro-slaughter buyer for rehoming.
Philipps was unable to ascertain the fate of the animals, which the bureau is normally able to rehome at one or two at a time, given the tough state of the economy.
Novak said the bureau was responsible for managing and protecting wild horses, not selling them for $10 a head under such circumstances.
She also criticized the “fiscally irresponsible roundups”.
Tami Hottes, Protect Mustangs’ outreach co-ordinator for the Midwest and South, said: “Members of the public who are active in their communities must let their friends, family and neighbors know they can contact Congress if they don’t like their tax dollars used to fund cruel roundups.”
The group also criticized the ongoing Antelope roundup, in northeastern Nevada, sparked by drought.
“We are concerned the bureau is jumping on the drought opportunity to zero out herds for industrialization of public land – especially massive energy projects that could pollute the water,” said Novak.
“Our indigenous wild horses are environmental barometers. If they die from drinking the water then that’s a red flag something is poisoning the water out there.
“If there is a real problem on the range then bring them aid in the field – don’t round them up and warehouse them at taxpayer expense. It won’t cost much to bring them hay and water for a few months to get them through a difficult time.”
She said videos from the roundup showed, in her view, the horses were in excellent shape, with no sign they had been suffering from lack of water or forage this summer.
She noted early fatalities, including a stallion breaking its leg in jumping from a corral.
She questioned the overall accuracy of bureau death counts, and criticized the growing number of wild horses kept captive.
The group called on Congress to work with advocates to find a way to return wild horses to their wild lands in the West.