It's been a good week for mustang lovers. Not only did the Bureau of Land Management, in the wake of lawsuits, back off a plan to round up the entire West Douglas herd of wild horses in northwest Colorado, but the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut $2 million from BLM's budget to express its displeasure with the BLM's management of the horse program.
But that act of fiscal chastisement still falls short of the kind of Congressional action mustang advocates would like to see. The BLM maintains that the herds are overpopulated and will starve if not thinned, but critics say the government is managing the horses into extinction and kowtowing to grazing interests. The roundups, they contend, are cruel and unnecessary -- and damned expensive, since the horses are then moved to holding pens and private pastures operated by private contractors.
"Bad has become the norm at BLM," says Ginger Kathrens, director of The Cloud Foundation in Colorado Springs. "We ask that Congress defund the roundups now and rein in BLM before any further suffering occurs at taxpayer expense."
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Kathrens, a documentary filmmaker who's been tracking wild horse herds for decades, has sent lawmakers a five-minute video focusing on the dubious tactics involved in recent "gathers." Warning: the video, which can be seen below, contains scenes of helicopters chasing exhausted animals, frightened horses being dumped clumsily into cages and panicking in tight pens, what appears to be some random pummeling of a helpless burro -- and, yes, cattle prods in use.
Horse advocates have proposed a range of alternatives to the roundups, including the use of contraceptives and selective breeding, to reduce herds where needed.
More from our News archive: "Wild horses in Colorado: ASPCA, other groups file suit to block roundups of two herds."