President Trump’s proposed federal budget adds up to disaster for America’s wild horses. Faced with a continued failure to provide horses under federal “management” the care they are entitled to by law, the budget would cut $10 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s funding for wild horses, and enable the sale of these American icons to slaughter, ending up as meat on foreign dinner plates.
As written, the FY 2018 federal budget could mean the end of wild horses in America—and at the very least it could mean grisly deaths for tens of thousands of horses, simply because of the BLM’s shortsighted approach to its mandate to protect America’s wild horses.
But there is another way—in fact, many other ways—to help wild horses, as well as the budget, that also provide great benefits to the public.
What the current budget ignores is the long list of possibilities for integrating captured wild horses into American life, instead of slaughtering them for meat. These options maintain the horses’ importance as icons, while placing them in programs that optimize their versatile traits, and create jobs.
Here are five ways to spare horses and spare taxpayers:
The equine training industry can expand existing programs where wild horses go through “gentling” programs and are then used in a variety of ways, including under private ownership as pleasure, trail, or competition horses. The BLM maintains that its interest is in adopting horses to the public; training programs are essential to ensure a wild horse will make a suitable companion.
2. Border security
Trained horses can be key members of border patrol units, handling the Southwest’s rugged terrain and remote areas with ease. Given Trump’s obsession with a border wall, one would think this is an easy sell.
3. Service animals
Horses are ideal companions for equine-assisted therapy and “Wounded Warrior" programs that benefit military veterans. Surely this administration intends to support our veterans.
4. Prison programs
Wild horses are successfully being gentled in prison programs, giving inmates practical skills as well as reducing recidivism.
The ability to see wild horses in their native habitats is a thrill for vacationers, and creating sanctuaries where visitors can meet and learn about horses can boost local rural economies.
Even without these solutions, doing nothing is a better alternative than the current programs. Studies show that the government’s process of removing horses leads to inevitable, predictable rebounds and overpopulation much faster than if the agencies involved left horses on the range to regulate themselves. If allowed, wild horses will manage themselves. Their natural behaviors, buffered by contraceptives like the safe and well-documented PZP, will protect horses and control their populations far better than removal and confinement in holding facilities.
The current administration promotes business-oriented programs and fiscal frugality, two concepts at odds with the BLM’s ongoing “management to extinction” policy for wild horses. Instead, training and employing horses—and people—would create value and provide stability to the herds.
Public comment is urgently needed. Contact your congressional representatives and ask for more responsible management of wild horses, both on their native rangelands and in confinement, as well as Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior (email@example.com), which oversees wild horse and burro programs.