I just returned from 5 days in Burns Oregon, and while I was there, the BLM finally released their Decision Record for the Mare Sterilization Experiments that they are planning to do at the Short Term Holding Corrals in Hines, Oregon.
Here it is:
They had been sitting on this decision and not releasing it to the public for at least a month, no doubt since it is spectacularly unpopular with the American public. Despite thousands of emailed and mailed comments sent to the BLM in opposition to the plan, as well as thousands more emails and phone calls to Oregon State University, who will be supervising and overseeing the cruel and barbaric experiments, the BLM has tuned a deaf ear and plans to go forward with this, the first in a series of sterilizations for our wild horses. 225 wild mares will be sterilized using three different procedures.
You might ask why. It is because sterilization is the keystone in the BLM’s long term goal of completely eradicating our wild horses from our public lands. Despite hysterical claims of Congressmen and BLM while pushing for approval of the 2017 Appropriations Bill, there is no overpopulation of wild horses and burros on our public lands. In fact, in the vast majority of wild horse herds there are not even enough adult members to ensure genetic viability – 150 minimum according to the leading geneticist for wild horses, Dr. Gus Cothren.
Why am I opposed to this sterilization study of wild mares? First of all, our wild horses do not belong in holding corrals, nor should they be experimented upon like lab rats.
Second, 100 mares in this study are going to be in various stages of pregnancy. The outdated, dangerous and barbaric procedure of ovierectomy via colpotomy will be used by veterinarian Leon Pielstick, and using this method which is NOT used any more because there are much better, safer and more humane methods available. The mares in the early stages of pregnancy are likely to absorb their foals, while those in the later stages may abort their foals. Then there is serious risk of infection given that they are doing the procedures at the Hines Short Term Holding Facility which is anything but a sterile environment, and there is risk of evisceration, hemorrhaging, colic and death. Despite extremely compelling letters from respected equine veterinarians against using this procedure, this will go forward.
Wild mares have never been touched by humans. Even coming close to the fence at the Hines corrals scared these mares. Can you imagine how terrified and panicked these wild mares will be, forced into this squeeze chute, restrained, tranquilized, and being operated upon? Many mares will simply die of fright.
Another very disturbing aspect of this experimentation is the sterilization of foals. They plan to sterilize fillies over 8 months old – they only have to weigh 250 pounds, and they will do laser ablation. Torture of foals who in the wild would still be nursing their mothers is absolutely outrageous. In the wild, fillies don’t usually leave their families until 1 1/2 years old to or 3 years old, once they reach esterus.
Where will these mares come from? Currently at the Hines facility there are 400 wild mares and fillies who were rounded up from the Beaty Butte HMA in November, 2015. But most of the mares have already foaled so they need “fresh mares” that are still pregnant. We were told that 100 more mares will be taken from two upcoming Oregon roundups in the fall at both the Three Fingers Herd Management Area, which will be rounded up by helicopter, and mares from the South Steens Herd which will be bait trapped.
Visiting the South Steens Herd for the first time, I was charmed by these gorgeous, healthy horses whose families were large and who seemed to be very peaceful in close proximity to each other. I tried not to think about what was going to happen to some of these spectacular horses in the herd that is a favorite to many, in a few short months. The horses would be losing their homes, their families, and some will end up being experimented upon and possibly dying. It was also hard to imagine that the wild horses are overpopulating the area given that I counted over 300 head of cattle in the same area, courtesy of the Roaring Springs Ranch.
I visited the short term holding corrals on Monday, and had to gear myself up to go. It is a horrible experience spending time seeing these formerly free wild horses standing in filthy pens, with horses of the same sex that they do not know, with no shelter from the elements and no possibility of a return to their homes. You see the light go out of their eyes as they spend day after day in this environment. First I saw the mares, then moved on to the fillies who were separated from their mothers much earlier than they would leave them in the fall, and these fillies are likely to be subject to the laser ablation experiment.
Then I moved onto the mares with foals, and I wondered how many pregnant mares would lose their foals in these experiments, and never get to have them by their sides? If they do the sterilization on mares with foals at their sides, how many of these foals will lose their mothers?
Keep in mind that there is no overpopulation of wild horses. This is a convenient lie that the BLM right now is using to justify selling wild horses to state agencies as a way to send them to slaughter, and is using to justify this barbaric, cruel and completely unnecessary torture.
What should the BLM be doing? They should be managing wild horses as the principle species in the herd management areas that they are currently in, on only 12% of our public lands. They should be retiring grazing leases from these herd management areas and reduce or eliminate livestock grazing in these areas. Instead of contemplating how to kill the 47,000 wild horses currently warehoused in holding facilities, they should be working to return them to the herd areas that were taken away from wild horses.
What can you do to help? Right now write and call your Senators and Congressmen.
Comments from Don Moore, DVM on the proposed experimentation: