12/8/09: More Put Heat on Obama, Salazar, Congress in Unified Fight for Wild Horse Freedom
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's new federal plan to relocate thousands of desert mustangs to preserves in sharply opposing Eco factions continues to attract the ire of horse protectors who call Salazar's pricey proposal a “travesty of justice and humaneness.” This is why Horse Rescue of America has now joined a growing number of other activists, corporations and celebrities in an allied and heated effort to stop the roundup and managed slaughter of these fanciful badges of the American West.1 To view a roundup, go to www.horserescueofamerica.org.
LOS ANGELES, CA – “This is a travesty of justice and humaneness,” said actor/animal welfare activist Leo Grillo. “Our native American equines were here first. There would be no America without the horse. This plan is not suitable for their survival.”
“Relocating desert horses to a different ecosystem would be
disastrous,” said Leo Grillo, founder of Horse Rescue of
Grillo's rawhide-tough comments echo the feelings of many horse protectors who disagree unilaterally with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's plan to introduce desert animals to the ever-changing micro climates of the East and Midwest.2
Grillo says relocating the mustangs to unfamiliar and harsh ecosystems would be disastrous. “There's too much rain, fungi and diseases associated with wetter climates that desert horses are not going to be able to cope with,” explained Grillo. “If the eastern quadrant of the U.S. were a suitable environment, these horses would have migrated there on their own. They're in the American West where they should be.”
Grillo says for only 3% of beef cattle raised in this country, it is the wild horse that is being rounded up. Competing wildlife, like dear and elk, are being killed off by the federal government, he says, because they infringe on the cattle's grazing areas.3 “
The mustang is being used as a scapegoat,” said Grillo. “It was the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that made this animal a manufactured problem. It keeps changing policy depending on who's in office.”
Leading up to his current position, The Animal Welfare Institute Compassion Index slapped the Secretary with a zero percent vote of confidence.4 Salazar governs the BLM.
In reality, the BLM has no accurate current inventory of the 37,000 wild horses and burros it claims [exist] on public lands. Independent analysis of BLM’s own numbers reveal there may be only 15,000 wild horses remaining on public lands,” reports The Cloud Foundation, a group calling for an immediate moratorium on wild horse and burro roundups until accurate and independent assessments of population numbers and range conditions are made available and a long-term solution is set.
"These animals should be returned to their native lands and be free," said Leo Grillo, founder of Horse Rescue of America.
Another group, In Defense of Animals, filed a lawsuit that placed on temporary hold the BLM's plan to take virtually every wild horse living in the Calico Complex Herd Management Area in northwestern Nevada.5 This action has prompted a growing number of corporations, scientists, celebrities and animal welfare groups to sign petitions earmarked for President Barack Obama, Salazar and members of Congress. Grillo is among the appellants urging an end to these roundups.6
“Politicians try to convince the American public that this is all about money,” explained Grillo, a man with more than 30 years' experience rescuing animals abandoned in the wilderness and protecting the natural habitats of the equine population.
“It's really about large corporations that are connected to wealthy politicians. They get the leases from the BLM and then sub-lease them to cattle ranchers for lots more money.
“BLM runs the public land, which is a quarter of the land mass of the lower forty-eight states. On that land are the wild horses and burros. It's ironic that these properties are fenced off from the tax-paying public which actually owns it.” Grillo contends it is this land upon which cattle is fed cheaply while the leases are lucrative. “Even friends of politicians get the leases and then sub-lease them for tons more money,” he said.
Salazar, a rancher, has urged Congress to okay seven wild horse preserves. These include two run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at a cost of about $92 million to buy and build in unspecified states. The agency would work with private groups on the remaining five. Salazar thinks his system will pull the reins on the proposed surplus slaughtering of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros while giving the growth of ecotourism an arguable shot in the arm.7
Meantime, many horse protectors are stampeding Salazar's recommendation, calling it a full-frontal attack against an indigenous population. “We must not eradicate these magnificent and docile creatures from this continent or ship them off to areas not suitable for their survival,” Grillo said.
The estimated 37,000 animals reportedly roam on more than 30 million acres of land throughout a total of 10 Western states. The majority are cared for by the BLM in government-funded corrals and pastures at an annual tag of about $50 million. It is a maintenance cost that is projected to skyrocket to $85 million by 2012, prompting Salazar's controversial proposal.8
Horse defenders say there are other more humane ways to reverse the contemplated economic surge. Among other things, “These wild horses and burros need to be returned to their native habitats and re- classified as wildlife,” Grillo urged. “They are not livestock and should not be treated as such.”
While animal welfare activists support the amount of national public awareness Salazar's plan has generated, many of them scoff at the Secretary's proposal to address the expanding horse population by neutering them and strictly limiting reproduction.9
Fencing in and sterilizing horses violates a 1971 law that protected the American West's wild horses and set aside land for them to roam free, said Ginger Kathrens, a filmmaker who has produced documentaries on the mustangs. "We'd like to see our wild horses staying free roaming on public lands we already own," she said.10 A bill to amend the near 40-year-old Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed by the House of Representatives last July. H.R. 1018: Restore Our American Mustang Act (ROAM) is aimed at improving the long-term health of these animals.11
Among other specifications, The ROAM Act will prohibit the Secretary from ever slaughtering wild horses and burros, and require him to locate new rangeland and implement more creative strategies to encourage private landowners to adopt horses and burros.12 13 This plan, too, raises prudence and a burdened state of mind by entrenched animal experts.
“Because there are so few people who can break and ride these animals, only a small number are adopted into a life of slavery,” Grillo said. “These animals need to be returned to their native lands and be free and provided with an adequate amount of natural and man made water sources. Concurrently, we need to build a trust-worthy coalition of established ranchers to protect them.”
“Horses are an inspiration, a symbol of America and the wide open spaces that dominate so much of the country,” said Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA). “Congress has the ways and the means to humanely reduce our wild horse population without resorting to slaughter.” 14
The ROAM Act will also expand the Secretary's advisory board to include representatives of the livestock industry, the environmental protection community, animal welfare advocates and scientists with expertise in wildlife management.15 Grillo says he welcomes an opportunity to discuss with Salazar a better plan that will be cost-effective for the tax-paying public and particularly beneficial to the animals. Grillo says he would also like to collaborate with members of Congress, like Moran, who are sensitive to the needs of all animals.
Grillo is creator of H.R. 3501, a bill that allows taxpayers to deduct as much as $3,500 of pet-related expenses from their tax returns. Grillo is also founder of D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the largest care-for-life animal sanctuary in the world.16 17 18
6 Ibid #1
8 Ibid #6
15Ibid #10 16http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dedication_and_Everlasting_Love_to_Animals_Rescue 17http://www.deltarescue.org