Celebrities, scientists and advocates write to lawmakers over wild horse concerns

Wild horses in the Pryor Mountains.
Wild horses in the Pryor Mountains. © Jana Wilson/BLM

Celebrities, scientists and advocates have joined forces to write to lawmakers over controversial proposals that could see thousands of captive wild horses sold for slaughter.

The Bureau of Land Management has attempted to control rangeland numbers of wild horses through regular musters, with the horses kept in captivity under long-term grazing arrangements.

There are now close to 40,000 horses being held in such facilities, placing a growing strain on the bureau’s budget.

The agency is now seeking permission from lawmakers to sell the horses without limitation, meaning buyers will no longer be required to provide assurances that the animals will be kept out of the slaughter pipeline.

Without such a provision, wild horse advocates fear that the horses will be sold for slaughter in plants in Mexico and Canada.

On July 18, the House Committee on Appropriations will vote on the 2018 Interior Appropriations bill.

The bill, approved by the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, maintains protective language for horses, but there is a chance it might be amended in full committee and removed, creating a pathway to slaughter.

Now, more than 50 actors, singers, screenwriters and scientists have joined the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Return to Freedom and the ASPCA to draw attention to the threat posed to wild horses and burros by the proposal.

“My family and I stand strongly against horse slaughter and against our government harming our wild horses,” said actor and director Ed Harris.

“I am pleading that a humane and common sense solution to the management of our wild horse population be mandated by Congress in keeping with the spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”

A number of advocacy groups, including the HSUS, have long called for the agency to cease the musters and instead redirect money toward fertility control measures on the range.

Advocacy groups believe tens of thousands of horses will die if Congress approves provisions in the president’s budget.

The letter to Congress reads:

“Our nation’s iconic wild horses are fighting for their lives and we cannot stand by silently and let that happen.

“We the undersigned call on Congress to oppose provisions in the president’s 2018 budget that threatens the lives of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros that will be senselessly killed or easily sold to those who would profit from their slaughter.

“For decades, we have had available humane solutions, which would keep wild equines on the range and save tax dollars. Sadly, agencies continue to discredit proven alternatives instead of committing to implement them.

“The American people have repeatedly and resoundingly called for wild horses and burros – the descendants of the animals who helped build our country, made our own freedom possible and shaped a vital part of our cultural heritage — to live free on the range.

Clark Gable as Gay Langland in The Misfits.
Clark Gable as Gay Langland in The Misfits. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

“Two years after the passage of the ‘Wild Horse Annie Act,’ which banned the use of vehicles to hunt down wild horses sold for slaughter, the 1961 movie The Misfits brought the brutal practices of the mustangers onto the big screen. Marilyn Monroe cried out on behalf of audiences when she pleaded for a roped and struggling wild horse to be set free.

“A decade later, in 1971, the overwhelming passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act enshrined in law the historic bond between Americans and wild horses and the policy of Congress “that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death.”

“Yet, for all that apparent progress, the lives of tens of thousands of captive wild horses are again at risk.

“As American citizens and as voters, we do not accept the use of our tax dollars, which for so many years were invested in the health and safety of the captive wild horses and burros, to now pay for the destruction of these noble animals because they have been deemed inconvenient. It is unnecessary and unconscionable.

A scene from The Misfits.
A scene from The Misfits. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

“The American people would never forgive such a betrayal.

“We respectfully urge Congress to take a leadership role by opposing mass euthanasia, slaughter and unrestricted sales and, instead, work together to forge a bipartisan, well-reasoned and humane management plan worthy of these “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” by recognizing and prioritizing viable alternatives that do exist.

As a nation, we can and must do better.

Respectfully,

Robert Redford, Actor, Director, Advocate; Governor Bill Richardson, Politician; Wendie Malick, Actress, Advocate; Willie Nelson, Musician, Advocate; Ed Harris, Actor, Director; Amy Madigan, Actress; Lily Harris, Student; Elle Fanning, Actress; Ian Somerhalder, Actor; Carol Burnett, Actress; Ali MacGraw, Actress; Dr. Ross MacPhee, Professor and Curator of Mammals, AMNH; Allen Rutberg, PhD, North Grafton, MA; Bonnie-Jill Laflin, Fox Sports/BBC sportscaster; Priscilla Presley, Actress, Entrepreneur; Noah Wyle, Actor; Sam Elliott, Actor; Katherine Ross, Actress; Robert Gossett, Actor; Claire Forlani, Actress; Dougray Scott, Actor; Debbie Levin, CEO Environmental Media Association; Huey Lewis, Musician; Diane Warren, Songwriter; Scarlet Rivera, Musician; David Midthunder, Lakota Pipe Carrier, Actor; Amber Midthunder, Lakota Dancer, Actress; John Fusco, Writer; David Franzoni, Screenwriter, Geologist; Petrine Day Mitchum, Author, Film Historian; Robert Knott, Writer, Producer, Actor; Rex Linn, Actor; Rachael Worby, Artistic Director MUSE/IQUE; Lance Bass, Producer, Singer; Jill Rappaport, Media host, Advocate; Ed Asner, Actor; Mike Smith, Hall of Fame Jockey; Peri Gilpin, Actress; Laraine Newman, Actress, Comedian; Laura San Giacomo, Actress; Frances Fisher, Actress; Anjelica Huston, Actress; Jessika Van, Actress; Ray Abruzzo, Actor; Dan Lauria, Actor; Victory Tischler-Blue, Producer, Photographer; Tony Stromberg, Photographer; Amber Valletta, Actress; Kimberly Van Der Beek, Producer; Hart Bochner, Actor; Daryl Wein, Writer, Director; Olivia Newton John, Singer, Actress; Mickey Rourke, Actor; Jeff Franklin, Creator / Executive Producer; John Stamos, Actor; Beth Behrs, Actress; Drew Carey, Comedian/Host

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