Expose the inhumanity of wild horse roundups – The Denver Post


Today the Bureau of Land Management Colorado is scheduled to begin rounding up wild horses of the Piceance-East Douglas herd, southwest of Meeker.

It’s a highly questionable move for an agency that has been cited for violating at least a dozen policies for the neglectful care of wild horses it had recently removed from Colorado rangelands.

When I take a long look at the history of wild horse roundups — the government’s rationale, the wranglers’ methods and the disturbing results —  it makes me wonder how the BLM can justify itself.

People like me feel like humanity is failing and lose hope when we read Bruce Finley’s story about Colorado’s wild horses who have been dying by the dozens, because the feds neglected to vaccinate them all for equine flu after moving them off their natural rangelands. The Bureau of Land Management rounded up more than 1,100 mustangs last year (684 from the Sand Wash Basin and 457 from the West Douglas herd) and put them into holding pens near the prison in Canyon City, where the infectious virus took hold.

With 145 deaths tallied by late May, it’s clear that we have turned our living symbols of the American West into a body count.

Gov. Jared Polis had rightly called on the BLM to stop the inhumane roundups of our wild equines last summer, well before the preventable deaths began.

But BLM managers proved to be incapable of compassion with the announcement this week that crews will be capturing hundreds of mustangs outside of Meeker on open rangelands in northwestern Colorado.

Wild horse roundups are not only “costly and wasteful” as Gov. Polis says, but they are a spectacle of damage and the highest disrespect of our Western wildlife heritage.

When I heard about a foal who was rounded up by a BLM-contracted helicopter pilot so aggressively that this young horse broke a leg, but kept running on three legs to get away, I felt a jolt of horror that made me feel responsible.

Maybe because I am a mother, I viscerally feel the frantic terror of the foal being hunted down by a loud, dust-swirling mechanical beast; I feel for the mare who was taken away, after watching her young shot dead by a worker agent doing a sickening job.

How can humans do this? Especially when there are alternatives, such as birth control, to solve the BLM’s decades-old, alleged problem of too many wild horses on public lands. BLM managers say horses are starving, so feed them, as our state wildlife agency has done many times over the years to help starving mule deer.

The answer is because they see the herd, not the individuals and certainly not the foal or mare for their individual traumas.

Those of us who can separate the individual from the herd are the ones who can feel the connection to an individual life.

In Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy,” he talks about the power of being “proximate” to another’s suffering. Stevenson, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit in Montgomery, Alabama, said these moving words during a keynote address at a 2016 Carnegie Foundation symposium:

“If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.”

Most of us go about life oblivious to suffering whether it is human or animal, but when we take the time to connect to an individual through their story — to get proximate — that is when we confront our humaneness and our ability to do something.

When you connect to an animal, just like with a human child, your worldview softens and compassion for others grows. I think if more people find their own special connection, that could help push them over the edge toward a love for all species.

You can voice your opinion by emailing the BLM White River Field Office

Julie Marshall is a former opinion editor for the Daily Camera. She works as the national communications coordinator and director of the Colorado State Council for The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action based in Washington, DC. 

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