A coalition of animal rights group is having a conniption over controversial horse sterilization procedures, as western states grapple with an unprecedented surge in wild horse and burro populations.
Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) brought a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing several experimental sterilization procedures approved for use at the Hines Corral in eastern Oregon run afoul of federal law. At issue are three procedures which the groups argue are highly invasive and harmful to wild horses, who enjoy a range of legal protections afforded by the 2004 Burns Amendment.
The methods in question involve the removal of ovaries, or cutting and burning the Fallopian tubes of female horses with a laser.
“It is unjustifiable for the BLM to conduct such barbaric sterilization experiments with a host of known risks, including death, on captive wild horses,” FRER president Hilary Wood said in a statement. FRER says BLM has more humane alternatives available like PZP, a noninvasive contraceptive.
“The BLM’s plan is not just clinically ill advised, it constitutes animal cruelty on a large scale,” veterinarian Laureen Bartfield added.
Other animal rights front have petitioned for public access to the procedures as they are preformed. The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) and The Cloud Foundation filed a request for access, arguing public documentation and comment is an essential component of establishing a program-wide policy. BLM officials have said the procedures could be implemented on an agency-wide scale should the Hines experiments prove successful.
“The public’s right to know what is happening to our nation’s federally protected wild horses on public property is vitally important, particularly since these controversial procedures could become routine practice by BLM,” AWHPC executive director Suzanne Roy said.
BLM is currently struggling to stem the tide of an unprecedented surge in the wild horse and burro populations on the federal range. BLM estimates place the population of wild mares at 67,000, a forbidding development which threatens the ecological balance of federal lands. Some state officials estimate certain herd management areas have exceeded acceptable horse populations by 600 percent. (RELATED: Congress, Activists Eviscerate Land Management Over Horse Population Measures)
Activists argue the overpopulation issue is largely a red herring. “Overgrazing and overpopulation are overgeneralized in nonscientific claims by the BLM to justify removals of horses and donkeys from our public lands,” Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud Foundation told the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands in June. Others say the issue is a pretext for the federal government to authorize the unrestricted sale of horses on federal lands to slaughterhouses and other unscrupulous buyers.
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