Long Island-based wild horse advocates are calling on Congressional lawmakers to drop a controversial proposal that would authorize euthanizing thousands of mustangs that were rounded up on federal land in the West.
CANA Foundation, a nonprofit horse rescue group in Locust Valley, condemned the proposal as inhumane. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said he is exploring how to block the proposal in Congress, where the Republican majority has advanced the measure.
“It’s offensive to me, the idea of slaughtering these beautiful animals,” Suozzi told reporters during a news conference Tuesday outside CANA’s stable of 12 rescued horses before riding off on one.
The issue is similar to the debate over how to manage white tail deer on the East End of LI and on Fire Island, where deer are a symbol, much like wild horses symbolize the West. Local deer and Western horses are often blamed for destroying natural resources, but proposals to cull herds have sparked outrage among animal rights activists that argue it’s human encroachment on natural habitats causing the problem. The biggest difference between the horse and deer issue is that in 1971, Congress passed a law prohibiting the federal government from having wild horses slaughtered.
“It costs all of us taxpayers $100 million a year…to keep those horses, round them up and have them in holding facilities, all so the land can be used for agro-faming, big business and initiatives—oil fracking and drilling—that only serve the 1 percent of the 1 percent,” said CANA Foundation President Manda Kalimian. “The systematic slaughter of America’s wild horses is slaughtering our democracy and our public range lands.”
The debate—an “age-old” one, Suozzi notes, often involving farmers that don’t want wild horses leaving nothing for cattle to eat in the ranges—currently hinges on an amendment to a 2018 appropriations bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives that would authorize the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to euthanize thousands of previously rounded-up unhealthy wild horses. BLM has been putting some of the horses up for adoption, although in the past that has still meant some were slaughtered. CANA is working with Native American tribes that the group hopes will adopt more wild horses.
In the meantime, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is reportedly co-sponsoring legislation that would block the amendment CANA is concerned about. And some Republicans that voted for the controversial amendment say they only did so to get horse advocates to agree to using birth control on wild horses, as has been done on local deer in the past, to slow their population growth.
“If we really don’t want to kill ’em – which by the way, I agree with – then we need to get seriously behind this whole birth control thing…so we can reduce those reproduction rates so they are in line with something the ecosystem can support,” U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) told the Reno-Gazette Journal.