Video: Wild horse roundups featuring burros being "hotshotted" are kinder, gentler?

In the war of words over the plan to round up thousands of wild horses on federal lands, it's the images that speak loudest. Even as the Bureau of Land Management argues that the thinning of herds is for their own good, critics of the program keep coming up with damning footage showing abuse of the animals by BLM contractors.

As noted in earlier posts, opponents have posted evidence of castrations and mistreatment in inadequate holding pens, a helicopter buzzing (and appearing to strike) an exhausted mustang, and other ugliness.

BLM director Bob Abbey has vowed to "reform" the program. Many of the strongest complaints have to do with the conduct of one contractor, Sun J Livestock of Vernal, Utah. (That's a Sun J pilot buzzing the mustang in a Nevada roundup last summer.) Freedom of Information requests regarding the company's qualifications have been denied, and the Colorado Springs-based Cloud Foundation is now seeking a Department of Interior investigation into the contracting process.

Last month, Ginger Kathrens, the foundation's director and a documentary filmmaker, filmed a Sun J roundup in Nevada and was astonished to see what was involved in getting a few wild burros into a trailer. In the video below, a member of the crew can be seen using an electric prod to repeatedly "hotshot" the burros -- while BLM employees and a government vet stand by, watching but doing nothing to discourage the eager shock-dispenser.

According to Kathrens, Sun J has received $5 million in BLM contracts since the fall of 2010. But this particular sequence isn't any kind of job reference. Check it out.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "More wild horse roundups (and protests) in the works."