On September 9th, the Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board voted that euthanasia is a viable option for 45,000 “unadoptable” wild horses. Since that time, public outcry has been rampant and over 200,000 signatures have been added to a Change.org petition on the matter. In response, a BLM spokesperson told The New York Times that they will not “sell to slaughter or put down healthy horses.”

The BLM has been rounding up wild horses from their natural habitats for decades, ramping up the roundup campaign in 2001 to make room for cattle grazing, oil exploration, and other more profitable ventures. This has resulted in an unnecessary burden on the U.S. government, which spends millions annually to care for these captive animals. But worse, these horses that once roamed free live out their lives in cramped holding pens or are pushed into the slaughter pipeline.

The BLM’s activities, from excessive roundups to this more recent decision to use euthanasia, directly violate the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971:

To require the protection, management, and control of wild free- roaming horses and burros on public lands. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.

In response to the September 9th vote, The Humane Society has released the following statement:

“The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care. The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mis-management. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”

Over the past 20 years, the BLM has maintained round-up and removal as a primary management strategy for wild horse and burro populations on America’s western rangelands – an effort which has led to a financially unsustainable Wild Horse and Burro Program. By focusing massive efforts on removing horses and burros from the range, without treating those horses remaining on the range with any form of fertility control to limit population growth, holding facilities throughout the United States have become overburdened.

In fiscal year 2015, BLM spent $49 million maintaining these horses in off-range facilities, which constituted 46 percent of the entire budget of the agency’s wild horse and burro program. Such a large expenditure has limited the agency’s ability to properly manage wild horses on the range. The HSUS has long recommended the humane and sustainable option of implementing fertility control programs throughout the West.

Join the 208,000 who have already signed the Change.org petition to reverse this decision by the BLM.

Article by Ashley Fairfield-Remeza