Quote from internal BLM document discussing euthanasia of wild horses:
“Increased support from public relations and management staff would also be needed to insulate those doing the actual work from the public, media and Congressional scrutiny/criticism.”
Phoenix, June 6, 2009
For Immediate Release
The Conquistador Program announced today that it has received material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that indicates the Bureau of Land Management is continuing to plan for the euthanasia of a large number of wild horses now in long-term and short-term holding facilities across the United States and for direct sale authority for many more. Notes of conference calls extending from July 22, 2008 through September 23, 2008 by a six-member implementation team and a draft Alternative Management Plan document demonstrate that several options are being planned. Among the options are:
Euthanasia of animals for which an adoption or sale demand does not exist (The section addressing euthanasia also includes the following statement, “Increased support from public relations and management staff would also be needed to insulate those doing the actual work from the public, media and Congressional scrutiny/criticism.” The section also includes a discussion on psychological counseling for those involved in the destruction and disposal of the bodies because it will be so stressful).
Direct sale of animals who have not been adopted after three attempts with no restrictions on the buyer. (This would allow for the purchase of horses by killer buyers for sale to slaughter).
Direct sale of horses eleven years and older with no restrictions on the buyer. (This option also would allow for the purchase of horses by killer buyers for sale to slaughter).
Direct sale of horses of all ages with no restrictions on the buyer. (This option also would allow for the purchase of horses by killer buyers for sale to slaughter).
Spaying mares and returning them to the wild. (This option holds the risk of a minimum 10% mortality rate to the mares. The statistic is provided by a BLM staffer based on data from the spaying of 30 mares by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at Sheldon Refuge in Nevada ).
Adjusting the ratio of stallions to mares and reducing the ratio to 50:50 thus increasing the number of stallions. (This section includes a discussion indicating that information from the 80’s suggests that the mares and stallions should be allowed to adjust to their natural numbers but BLM thinks 50:50. The section also includes a discussion of whether changing sex ratios would affect behavior including a statement, “Do we care?”).
The documents also contain information included below related to euthanasia of wild horses in their custody:
BLM discussed ways to circumvent the federal carcass disposal law, 43 CFR 4730.2, that prohibits them from paying any agency or individual for burial, burning, incinerating, composting carcasses and paying for disposing of remains. BLM explored paying for carcass disposal through rendering by contract.
As one alternative, the BLM has been in discussion with slaughter businesses from Denmark and Canada to take 10,000 wild horses for slaughter.
BLM discussed strategies to kill horses without having to perform a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment. They discussed killing horses in numbers of 1200-2000 per year to avoid greater criticism and scrutiny from Congress, media and the public. The BLM noted the public would be prohibited from viewing euthanasia. There is fear among horse advocates that such activity is already taking place or will take place soon.
BLM discussed methods of changing current policy to fast track horses using the 3 strikes regulation and offer as many as 12,000 wild horses and burros under age 11 for sale earlier hence making more animals at risk of going to slaughter.
The agency also is discussing as one alternative euthanizing horses in the field during round ups at an estimated cost of $500.00 per horse and considering among other things, shooting the horses or use of the captive bolt. The $500.00 figure is the same cost denied to Madeline Pickens who offered to take the wild horses and give them a home.
In a 1978 court case in which the Bureau of Land Management was caught shooting wild horses, a federal judge noted, “Horses were loaded into a truck, six or seven at a time and driven to the burial trench where they were shot while in the truck and then unloaded. …such wholesale slaughter of animals (especially horses) is considered by many to be degrading to the human spirit, and inappropriate conduct for a civilized human being.” The judge further noted,” It is also undisputed in the evidence that the most humane way to kill a horse is by the injection of a barbiturate, “which he mandated.
The documents are available on The Conquistador Program website at www.conquistadorprogram.org. The public is urged to review the documents. The material was obtained with the assistance of attorney Debra Sirower who guided the Conquistador Program through an initial request process and then appeals process to obtain the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Sirower is the attorney who successfully worked with attorney Anthony Merrill to obtain a temporary restraining order preventing the removal of wild horses in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forests. In a second set of documents containing more than 800 pages of contract information, obtained under FOIA this week, it also was verified that the BLM has continued to use a contractor for gathers who was charged and pled guilty to violations of the Wild Horse and Burro act.