Wednesday, May 25, 2011

wild mustangs, donkeys, and the BLM

 I'm  not sure what we can do to change what happens in this video. Madeleine Pickens is asking Oprah to do a show to raise awareness and force the BLM to stop these practices and to release the horses and donkeys from holding pens back to the range where they were brutally and heartlessly herded by helicopter.

Tonight while reading my Facebook feed I've burst into tears (wailing tears) at a series of photographs of a rescue mare (not a mustang) that is now in safe  hands. Then I came across this video. I watched it once, and I can't watch it again. But every one of us who love horses and donkeys, each of us who know how special these animals are, and how much they matter in our world, need to see this just one time, and get one other person to watch it just one time - so that one by one and two by two, we can create a group of people big enough and intent enough to figure out a way to stop this.

The idea that one cent of the money I pay in taxes is supporting this program makes me ill. If anyone has more information on what we can do to help change this, please post it in the comment section. I am beyond appalled. I've seen some of what they've done in the past, and I've signed petitions and sent emails. There has to be a way to do more.


Grey Horse Matters said...

This is sad and disturbing. I fear there is nothing to do for them though. I have signed countless petitions and written to congressmen and senators. The most you ever get back is a form letter or ignored. Nobody in Washington cares or knows about it. The shame of it is what they are doing is in-your-face illegal and nobody stops them. I'm sure the mustangs are being cleared out for many reasons. My guess is the cattle lobbyists are very formidable in Washington and I've heard there may be plans for something called the Ruby pipeline going through mustang country in time.

With all that is going on in the world right now the BLM and their cronies have the perfect storm to wipe the mustangs from the landscape forever. I have a hunch that the present administration has no idea what the mustangs mean to America and the last administration condoned this travesty.

I admire M.Pickens and her husband for trying to get a big name like Oprah involved. I personally don't think she'll do it, she's got too many other things she's interested in. I think they should contact someone like Bill Clinton, he could do some good if they could get him interested in the project.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...


I was a grass roots lobbyist to stop the transport of horses across the boarders for the purpose of slaughter (HR 503 / S 727) for many years. We actually got the legislation passed (2006) in the house, but couldn't get it before the senate for a vote in time. The Ag lobby held us up in committee until it was too late for that session of congress. Since then we have not even been able to come up for a vote again on either side .

At beast you get lip service... and are often lumped in with Peta - "crazy animal rights activists". It's heartbreaking.

And you are correct - the large scale cattle ranchers feel entitled to the use of (all of) our land out west for free grazing. They and the ag lobby are super powerful... more money than god. Oprah already tangled with the cattle lobby in her "slandering the beef industry" suit...

A while back Mrs. Pickens announced that she was purchasing 200,000 + acres to create a mustang sanctuary. She was in negotiations with the BLM, but the deal was blocked in some way. I'm not privy to the details - but I assume it's the usual suspects. Such a bummer...

jme said...

to be honest i just haven't the stomach to watch this right now. but i will, and soon. i know enough about what happens to know i shouldn't watch it now (while i'm at work) because i won't be able to handle it very well.

this is so infuriating and frustrating as an essentially nameless, voiceless bystander. i can't believe more 'big names' are not involved. you'd think this would be an easy one, tailor made for the hollywood crowd, country music stars, etc.. if anyone has any good ideas about what can be done, i'm in.

billie said...

Arlene, I know you have been active on this issue for a long time. I have always sent the emails and done the recommended "add your voice" - I really want to stop what is happening - and I mean STOP IT NOW.

The people who are piloting those helicopters have psychological disorders. That they are getting paid to do what they're doing by our government is just beyond the pale.

billie said...

I actually welcome PETA into this if they can do something. If I didn't have children and animals I would be right there with them.

billie said...

I'm not even sure the big names are what is needed. I consider the assaults with those helicopters as basically domestic terrorism. That it is directed at animals seems to make it not matter, but surely people see that kind of behavior for what it is? Psychological disturbance is being kind.

I am so upset by what I saw on the video.

ponymaid said...

billie - we cannot watch this. A few years ago we rehabbed a lovely mustang whose band had been rounded up with small aeroplanes. His trauma regarding planes never abated. I cannot even imagine what is on this film - I know it must be so much worse. Why is there never enough land for some humans?

billie said...

Sheaffer, I totally understand about not watching - I did not realize when I first watched what I was going to see.

It is extremely upsetting and involves horses AND donkeys.

I felt I needed to warn people about the footage - but I also really wish everyone would watch it - mainly b/c seeing it will so enrage most of the people who visit here I think they might be driven to revolt - which it seems like is exactly what we need to help these equines.

I wailed so loudly when I watched it that Moomintroll, my very sensitive cat, came running, leaped onto my desk, and gazed into my eyes to see what was wrong.

It is horrific - but sometimes we need to see the true horror of a thing so we can then do something about it. I am still trying to figure out exactly WHAT TO DO that will actually have effect.

jme said...

i agree that there is something incredibly sadistic and violent about this, but in my cynical view of people in general and americans in particular, i can't imagine the average person cares. animals like this (like the environment/natural resources, endangered species, etc.) are either there for exploitation or an impediment to profit. cattle grazing, for example, takes precedent because it means they can get a burger off the dollar menu rather than pay what it costs to raise and slaughter beef humanely, etc.. (which is why i'm a vegetarian and only buy organic/free range/certified humane - i'm nuts like that.)

anyone who advocates for the animals gets lumped in with extremists like PETA whose stated aim is the extinction of all domesticated species, which means no more pet cats, dogs, horses, etc.. so where is the middle ground, and how do you get average citizens to raise their voices above the ranting of various lobbies, etc. who need these horses out of their way to get what they want? people don't seem to understand that this is our public land, our shared heritage and our tax dollars being usurped and corrupted in our name to the benefit of private interests.

and in our shallow, reality tv culture the only ones who can probably bring it to their attention and make it a trendy cause to care about are celebrities, etc. maybe it needs to be made into a reality tv show, only not one that glorifies the pilots and the wranglers, but the horses and the history (yeah, right - like that would ever happen.)

i don't know, but i don't have much faith in people, and i don't know how our few voices will ever be heard above the giant ca-ching! of lobbyists and politicians doing business.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

jme and billie-

Just to clarify - not anti PETA per se, but have seen again and again how (these days) being an advocate for animals often gets you lumped in with orgs who are labeled "extremist". I think PETA are extremist, but in the sense that they exist on the far end of the spectrum of the animal rights debate. Their tactics and agendas are another issue entirely.

During my time communicating with folks on Capitol Hill, when the politician was on the other side of the fence about the horse slaughter issue, they would reflexively / insultingly imply you had screws loose... Similar to how "environmentalist" and "liberal" have become a pejorative terms.

Sorry to go off topic - the situation with the horses and burros makes me so sad - it's so unfair. Unfortunately my experience with the horse slaughter issue left me feeling that the only way to make things happen on Capitol Hill is with $$$$. Being on the "right" side of the argument doesn't seem to matter at all...

billie said...

I think I must see a skewed segment of the population in my daily life - I encounter people in all ways who absolutely DO care and WOULD care if they saw this. The problem is imo twofold - how to bring clear, honest messages to these people and then how to offer them very concrete action they can take that gets results.

One reason I have encouraged folks to actually watch the video is so they are not reacting to MY view that it is horrific. I honestly think a lot of the American public would think this particular video is indeed horrific if they saw it.

I could be wrong - I do tend to live on the far-out edge of things. But I also interact with a wide range of people - and I can't help myself - everywhere I go I end up talking to people. I see people who care and would act - but there is a big disconnect that I am not sure how to bridge.

Part of it is that too many people have signed petitions and sent emails to high-ranking govt. officials to no avail.

What needs to happen is true action - not just signing yet another petition or sending another faceless email. I just don't know how to create what replaces that.

I am actually not against extreme tactics when that's all that will work. When it comes to children and animals and abuse, whatever needs to be done to keep them safe (in the short and long-term, physically AND emotionally) is warranted, imo.

What I want to know is how many people actually understand that cruelty to animals, such as is depicted in this video, is a big red flag in terms of the psychological make-up of the individual perpetrating the cruelty?

Does the average citizen know that cruelty to animals is in fact a predictor of violence to other humans?

If you combine cruelty to animals with bed-wetting and fire-setting you have the common characteristics to almost every serial killer on record.

I'm rambling and not really making a point - but I believe in my heart there has to be something we can do, some way we can reach a bigger audience, who will then take action in a way that simply cannot be and won't be ignored.

Babygoose said...

While this video is upsetting, please be aware that it is not portraying the whole story. It is meant to make you angry and emotional, but is not entirely true. Some of that footage was not even mustangs. The horses trotting down the road in the very beginning of the video had shoes on. Footage of horses in belly deep green grass is probably not of mustangs. At least not on most of the range in the western US. They might have filmed it in some of the holding facilities in the midwest where they keep mustangs on private ranches.

The mustangs cannot be left on the range without some kind of management. It is a falacy that cattle are replacing the mustangs. Cattle numbers are a set permitted number that cannot go up. In fact, cattle numbers have been reduced over the years. There have been permanent cuts made to the cattle permits to bring them in line to what the range can sustain. The same must be done for the mustangs. If they were all left on the range they would soon exceed the carrying capacity of the fragile desert ecosystem and cause irreperable damage to the land. Cattle are allowed on the allotments for short periods of time. Numbers are cut back even further in times of drought, sometimes cattle are not even allowed on the range in drought years. Many pastures are rested from grazing completely every few years. But the horses are always out there, year round, through drought and good years. They can do a lot of damage to rangeland if not managed.

Many people have never even seen the kind of environment that mustangs live in. There is little forage and less water. They are not running free in lush green pastures like Pickens would like you to believe. I bet that most of those actors in that video have no clue what the Nevada desert looks like. And I bet with all their wealth, have not adopted one of the mustangs either. That is part of the problem. There are way too many horses and very few adopters. The horse market is terrible right now. It is hard to sell trained horses these days. There are too many horses and not enough homes for them not even counting the mustangs. The mustangs need to have birth control, the numbers need to be reduced. But everytime the BLM tries to do anything, wild horse advocates try to stop them. The mustangs live on BLM land. That means it is public land. It is multiple use land, not mustang land. It is to be managed for wildlife, recreation, camping, hiking, livestock grazing, mining, and mustangs. If the mustangs were left alone, they would displace wildlife, they would damage streambanks and destroy native species habitat.

Some of the roundup footage is disturbing. I have also heard that the footage of the burro being knocked down was not a BLM roundup. Remember, Fish and Game rounds up wildhorses off of wildlife refuges. And that has nothing to do with BLM. I am always suspicious of where this footage is coming from.

The BLM and it's management of mustangs is far from perfect. But they are doing the best they can. Without the roundups, horses would die of starvation. Horses do get hurt during the roundups, but the animal rights people and the advocates are selective in what they show you. I can go to a local dressage show and peice together enough footage of a head toss, a horse pulling back at a trailer, etc., add some dramatic music and commetary from people who don't have a clue and the local dressage show becomes a horror film.

Please take the time to find the truth from both sides. Propaganda type films from either side of a debate are usually not accurate. And the best way to be part of the solution.... Adopt a wild horse or two.

billie said...

Are you with BLM? If so, I would love an invitation to come out, see the real thing in process, write about it, and have my photographer husband and daughter shoot still photos and video.

If the Pickens video is not using authentic footage, send me proof and I will write about that too.

And believe me - I have written about dressage shows and the travesties that occur there.

I would love to be shown that what I see in the video above is in fact NOT what it appears to be. I would LOVE that. If anyone can show the real picture, please step forward and do so, and I'll sing it from the rooftops.

This isn't the only footage out there - everything I've seen thus far is upsetting.

Babygoose said...

I am not with BLM, but I live in the desert west and I don't want to see the rangelands and wildlife habitat destroyed by overgrazing. From horses or cattle. I know people with BLM and they are not the monsters that the wild horse advocates make them out to be. Generally they are trying to manage the land for multiple use and there is no way to make everyone happy. Without the BLM management, the horses would starve and the ecosystem would suffer. The public lands are public. You don't need an invitation from the BLM. Go out there and look for yourself. Talk to the BLM, the ranchers, the wildlife agencies, the wild horse advocates, backyard horseman that live on the edge of the desert and have wild horses coming in eating thier hay and harrasing their horses. Look at the rangeland. Don't assume that overgrazing is caused by cattle. Find out where the cattle are grazing. You will find springs and overused land in areas that haven't had cattle grazing in years, caused by wild horses.

But please don't draw all your conclusions from a few emotionally charged videos.

Example of a wild horse group that works with the BLM to try and make things better for the horses.

Coming from a mustang advocate that some of these guys are not helping the mustangs cause.

And that some of the stuff coming out about the BLM and ranchers is not accurate.

Again, the BLM is not perfect. But there is a lot that the wild horse advocates are not telling you.

billie said...

So I and anyone else can go watch the next gather? And take photos and video? That has not been my understanding about the gathers or the holding/containment areas.

I appreciate the info you're providing here - am looking now at the mustang project site - the amount of info is overwhelming - it will take me awhile to read through it and begin to make sense of the bigger picture.

What do you know about the helicopters literally knocking animals down, on purpose? I disagree with the use of the helicopters in general but to see them physically assaulting equines is simply over the top. Who are the pilots of these helicopters? Who hires them? Who monitors them? What about the man grabbing the donkey by the ear? Is this common practice during these gathers?

I agree that this is a complex issue - and I don't doubt there is more to the story than is being shown in the advocacy videos. But there have to be some bottom lines that have to do with humane treatment and lines that just aren't crossed when it comes to brutality.

I do not live in an area where wild horses come in and disrupt our farm - so I have no idea what that would be like. I do know there is no way in hell I would allow anyone to come onto my property and knock animals to the grounds with helicopters though! There are better ways to do things.

What I am asking is this: how can folks like me who care, help? Do they allow volunteers to come in and assist? Is there any openness to ideas about how to manage these animals with kindness and respect while trying to maintain the other pieces of the issue?

I know people who have adopted BLM mustangs and burros. I am not in a position to do that at this point. I'm not sure that's even what I would advocate for these animals.

Any insights you have are very welcome here, and I am going back to the mustang project site to continue reading.

Babygoose said...

You can go to the gathers and holding facilities. Yes they will restrict where you can be located during a gather. This is for safety reasons for all concerned, not to hide anything. If the public were allowed to go wherever they wanted at a gather I guarantee there will be somebody that will not be respectful and end up where they shouldn't be, possibly getting themselves hurt or causing more stress to the horses. Go to the BLM wild horse web pages. You will find info on gathers, when they are, where they are and when and where the public will be allowed. Also, every gather is required to analyzed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the documents are posted for public review and comment. Here are a few places you can go online to start getting information from the “other” side.

And that is just one state. You can also go to BLM pages from other states with wild horses and see what is happening there. Since you are looking at the advocate sites, you should also look at the opposite side. Look at both sides, then try and find some opinions from the middle, then go look for yourself. I have heard a lot of good things about this book:

I have been wanting to read it. I just keep forgetting to go and order it. I get distracted by something else and never go back!

About the helicopters knocking animals down, I don't know. I saw on some other internet sites that the burro that was knocked down was not a BLM roundup, but I can't remember now where I saw that so can't confirm that. The guy kicking and pulling the burros ears, again, I don't know, but it is not excusable, BLM roundup or not. I have not been to an actual gather. I only have heard stories from others, most who I trust the information coming from them, and I would say that the burro getting yanked by the ears and animals getting knocked over by helicopters is NOT standard practice in BLM. But again, that is why I stress going to see for yourself. I have seen the damage caused on rangeland by both cattle and horses, and I have seen areas that are grazed by cattle and horses, managed well, and are healthy. I also have a degree in rangeland resources for whatever that is worth.

You can help by becoming educated as to what is going on, by understanding the ecosystem these horses live in and how it is being used by all the public. There are advocacy groups that work on the ground (like the group in editorial I posted about it not being a “carnival sideshow”). Find the groups that work with BLM. They may not agree with each other, but the only way to help the horses is to work together. There are many horse people that work in the BLM wild horse program. People who own horses and love them and only want the best for the horses while wanting the best for the rangeland and it's other resources as well. Go visit the BLM. Make appointments to visit with the wild horse staff. But don't go in with the attitude that they are all just a bunch of horse killers. The BLM is willing to hear people's ideas, but nobody wants to be bashed around. Especially if the ones doing the bashing don't know the whole story.

And yes, adoptions of wild horses can be a crap shoot. I have been to several adoptions and I see a lot of people coming in to adopt that know nothing about horses. These mustangs are not for the beginner. Most of the time it will not be the romantic Black Stallion experience that people think. The adopter gets in over their head, the year trial is over, the horse is titled and it can end up anywhere. There are just too many horses for them all to have good homes, mustangs or not. By letting the mustangs reproduce all we are doing is putting out more unwanted horses. They cannot all stay on range. They will starve and they will damage the resource.

Babygoose said...

Not sure if this link will work, but on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Facebook page they are advertising a tour of one of the long term holding ranch facilities and it has sparked a lot of comments. Andi Harmon, the author of the living Oregon's Living Legends book is posting commments there. Interesting to read all the different thoughts.!/photo.php?fbid=223456277669546&set=a.143505385664636.28074.125639020784606&type=1&theater

Babygoose said...

Sorry, just one more link. Another interesting discussion with people weighing in from both sides.!/topic.php?uid=125639020784606&topic=267

billie said...

Please send as many as you find/want to send. I have a book giveaway thing happening all this weekend so I'm not able to read all the information you're sharing, but I do appreciate it and I will get to it!!

jme said...

sorry to come in at the end of this, but can anyone explain to me how 'livestock grazing' and 'mining' are PUBLIC use? how is this anything other than privatization of public resources? this is clearly not an environmental management issue (though it is cleverly cast as one by the very people for whom 'environment' is a four letter word), but a political (and ideological) battle.

i am familiar with the area, with the ecosystem involved and with the natural grazing and range requirements of horses like these. it's one thing to manage the land in the interests of the wildlife and the habitat that sustains it, it's another thing entirely to engineer an environment more conducive to resource extraction by private interests. i guess my problem is i have absolutely no sympathy for the 'needs' of cattle ranchers, who i don't think have a right to ANY use whatsoever of that land. i have even less sympathy for mining/oil/gas companies, who i also believe have no right to allegedly protected public lands.

billie, if you guys are up for a field trip and some live documentation, i'd be up for a tour of the entire area and activities there. if it is truly public land, after all, we should have access to it and be able to view all activities taking place there. i'd also like any records relevant to which PRIVATE INTERESTS - such as ranchers and mining companies - are conducting their business on our public land at the expense of the environment and wildlife there.

Jessica Keener said...

Please list emails and I'll write. I can't watch. Just thinking of cruelty to animals paralyzes me, which is a terrible excuse.

Can you send me email addresses and I'll write? I actively respond to all the emails that The Humane Society sends me--THS has been a very effective organization.

So devastated by all this.

billie said...

Jessica, the address for the emails is at the end of the video. To be honest, I'm not willing to watch it again to get them for you!

I understand that you don't want to watch something upsetting. I don't like doing it either, but I feel compelled to watch these things at least once so I can see with my own eyes what is being done. I get well and truly upset and then I get fired up to do something.

I know you care about animals and that you will write on their behalf - I think at this point what is clear is that doing that isn't enough. It hasn't worked so far.

I'm trying to get folks fired up to go past that kind of action. We need to do MORE.

I'm just not yet sure what, exactly.

billie said...

and jme - email me. I am up for a field trip - not sure when, but let's talk about it. we'll take cameras and we'll document everything we see. we'll write it up and spread it everywhere! Seriously, I'm game if you are.

Babygoose said...

Here is a blogger that owns one of the long term holding facilities for mustangs. She might be a good resource to talk to.

I know I am the only one commenting on here that is for gathers and reducing mustang numbers and that most people that see the videos put out by the advocates immediately hate the BLM. But when you take your field trip, please visit the local BLM. Find out where cattle are grazing and where they are not. Go look at the water sources and rangeland where there are no cattle grazing, but where there are mustangs. Give the BLM a chance to explain the resource and go there with a completely open mind.

billie said...

Babygoose, I truly appreciate the info you're sharing. I don't necessarily hate the BLM - and am not necessarily opposed to the gathers. But I do feel that things should be done a certain way when working with sentient beings, which horses are.

I absolutely want to visit the BLM local to wherever I might go. I spent a few weeks a number of years back driving through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona, so I have seen some of the landscape there and the cattle grazing. It's hard to imagine some of the areas I saw sustaining anything that grazes/forages - although during the time we were out there, it rained and areas that hadn't had water in years suddenly did, so some of what we saw was not characteristic of the usual conditions.

I did go to the site that showed photos w/ descriptions of volunteers out doing actual WORK to help the wild horses. That's the kind of thing I wish I could do - help with water stations, get to know the local BLM people, etc. Maybe the BLM should set up a working/volunteer vacation program where people like me could go help for a week or two a year - it would certainly put folks right in the thick of things.

I'm not averse to seeing the realities of the situation - but nothing I see will ever convince me that brutality and inhumane methods are okay.

I know you're not advocating those methods either - somehow there has to be a middle ground that puts the basic rights of the horses in the forefront of management.

Babygoose said...

I agree that the horses should not be mistreated. Whoever the guy in the video was that was yanking the burros ears needs to have the same (and worse) done to him. There is no call for that kind of treatment. I also hate the thought of horses out on the range struggling to find food and water, death in nature is rarely humane so I hate to think of horses starving or suffering out there from an injury. Then there is the part of me that is very concerned over the health of the overall environment and wildlife that depends on it. Horses can have a big impact on streambanks and riparian areas and upland habitat.

For your field trip I would suggest Nevada or Oregon. As I am sure you know, Nevada has probably the largest wild horse population and some of the bigger cattle ranches, and where Pickens has bought her ranch.

billie said...

Thanks - I am now doing some reading on the Pickens' ranch situation. The story gets more complex, I'm afraid. More soon.