Wild Horse Wars: Will Overpopulation Force Drastic Action? | Retro Report
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Wild Horse Wars: Will Overpopulation Force Drastic Action? | Retro Report

August 22, 2019


These wild horses are the central characters
in an ongoing ecological drama. A bit of the Old West which survives today. And so does the controversy. These days there is a battle raging in the
American West over what many see as the embodiment of the national spirit. America has been fighting a war over wild
horses since 1971, when a new law protected them from slaughter and secured their place
on America’s public lands. Today President Nixon signed a bill to make
killing them a federal crime. But that soon led to another problem. The government says there are too many of
those horses. Too many by the thousands. I think this whole thing is a train wreck. Now the government is considering drastic
measures. The government is considering allowing the slaughter
of these animals for the first time in nearly 50 years, putting the lives of thousands of horses
at stake. Wild horses descend from animals brought to
North America by Spanish conquistadors. At the turn of the century, vast herds roamed
the West – as many as a million by one estimate. But by 1970, that population had fallen to
less than 18,000 – victim of a pet food industry hungry for cheap meat. Get that horse! The 1961 movie The Misfits dramatized the
brutality of horse roundups, a practice which enraged a growing number of animal-lovers. Murderer! The mustang, maybe more than any other animal
in America, is a symbol. It means freedom, it means defiance. It means scrappy, but noble. In a sense, it means us, right? It is the American. And to have something that we hold in such
esteem, at the same time, not only abused, but turned into dog food, was just something that
people could not deal with in their minds. Knowing that animals were being hunted down,
slaughtered, butchered and sold as pet food just really burned me up. Greg Gude was a young boy when he discovered
the plight of the mustang in the pages of an illustrated children’s book. Its main character was a tenacious Nevada
activist with a catchy nickname. Velma Johnston has fought for the protection
of these animals all her life and she is known as Wild Horse Annie. Wild Horse Annie enlisted school children
in a national letter-writing campaign. By some accounts, they flooded Congress that
year with a volume of letters second only to mail received about the Vietnam War. But Greg Gude didn’t need to write letters. His father, Gilbert Gude, held one of Maryland’s
seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. I lived with my Congressman. I could lobby at the dinner table. I think it probably took a hunger strike. An 11-year-old boy persuaded his father, a
Congressman, to introduce a bill to protect wild horses and burros on the western plains. Then the boy, Greg Gude, of Maryland, appeared
today to testify… When President Richard Nixon signed the bill
into law in December of 1971, it became a federal crime to kill mustangs on public lands. This largely halted the commercial capture
and slaughter of wild horses roaming the West. But it wasn’t long before mustangs were
making news again. It may surprise you to hear there’s a surplus
of wild horses in what was once the Wild West. There has been, according to the Interior
Department, a wild horse population explosion. They are reproducing on public lands at a
rate estimated from 5 to 20-percent per year. The rising horse population drew criticism
from ranchers paying to graze sheep and cows on public lands. The cattlemen said unchecked mustangs were
damaging the range, eating grass that ought to be feeding domestic stock. They’re just getting too many on the range. They’re running the cattlemen out of business. As soon as the law passed, there were essentially
more horses than the government knew what to do with. There’s only a certain amount of grass out
there, especially in the West, and most of it’s already spoken for. For the last three decades, this perceived
grass shortage gave rise to a curious yearly ritual. Anywhere on the range the Bureau of Land Management
decides horses are too numerous, it sends in the helicopters. Like flying sheepdogs, the aircraft chase
bands of horses out of the hills, herding them, coaxing them, scaring them into a funnel-shaped
corral. Whether the round-ups happen in the heat or
in the snow, they follow the same pattern. And they end when cowboys on the ground release
what’s called a Judas horse – a domestic animal trained to lead its wild disciples
into captivity. Watching the drama from the sidelines are
contenders in a high plains standoff. If was just a little bit warmer… Wild horse advocates like filmmaker Ginger
Kathrens set up their cameras alongside media observers, watching for cruelty to horses. Kathrens doesn’t want to see helicopters
chase mustangs at all. It doesn’t happen very often, but on occasion a horse might come in, might slip on the ice… Sometimes she confronts the BLM directly. We want to go on record as saying that we
don’t think that this roundup ought to start today. We think it’s too dangerous, too cold, and
too risky. Helicopter roundups are incredibly stressful
on the animals. Foals will sometimes literally have their
hooves fall off their feet. If you’re wondering why our public lands
are overgrazed or degraded, you need to look at the millions of head of livestock, cattle
and sheep, that are permitted to graze out here. On the other side, ranchers stake their own
claim to America’s Western past. I roped my first wild horse when I was 11. That was in 1952. There are people that think the wild horse
is a symbol of the American West. I think every rancher will tell you that we’re
riding the horses that built the American West. Garrett says activists have browbeaten the
BLM into culling too few mustangs. I have a place in my heart for the wild horse. But there would be a lot of us out of business
if we didn’t have public lands to graze on. If you talk to the advocates, spend some time
at a round up with them, eventually they’ll talk about how the BLM is in the pocket of
big ranchers. And if you talk to the ranchers, if you spend
any time at their ranches, they will talk to you about how the government, the BLM,
is in the pocket of the advocates. By 2017, the BLM was removing close to 4,000
horses a year, treating many with birth control drugs, while hoping to find others permanent
homes, but periodic exposés over the years reveal that the animals sometimes met a different
fate. NBC News has been told by just about everyone
we talked with, a large number of BLM horses likely end up slaughtered. The BLM sort of binges and purges when it
comes to horses. They’ll ignore the problem of overpopulation
until it gets really bad and they they’ll do something they regret. And so in the 80s they sold a bunch of horses
to people that then slaughtered them. And then in the 90s they started doing the
same thing again, sort of, but quietly. The BLM insists it does not knowingly sell
horses to so-called kill buyers. And today, the growing number of horses and
fewer adoptions have given rise to what may be the biggest unintended consequence of the
1971 law. The Bureau of Land Management is probably
the largest horse owner in the continental United States. Maybe the world. There are nearly 46,000 formerly wild horses
and burros living in corrals and long-term holding pastures in the Midwest, eating grass
on the government dole. The BLM spends almost $50 million dollars a year to board these captured animals. The Government Accountability Office has warned
the ballooning costs will overwhelm the program. I mean we’re talking, 40, 50, 60-percent
of our budget is going to just holding and caring of animals. We’re full out, there’s nowhere to go. There’s nowhere to go with them. I really don’t know what to say other than
it’s not sustainable. An independent scientific review found that
the BLM’s current program is not controlling the population and recommended wider use of
birth control drugs but the BLM believes that without drastic measures like euthanasia,
the mustang population could soon exceed 100,000. It’s a problem – and not an easy one to
solve. They really made a mess of it. Are they wild horses when they are in captivity? It’s awful. We have to manage wild horses on the range. I don’t think anybody likes it, but nobody
can find a way out of it. The law really did save the wild horse. The question is, what do we do with the horses
we saved?

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  1. Maria
    This is the end of horses, it is inhumane to kill horses and since it is illegal to kill them in USA land, they are sent to Canada and Mexico… When animals are killed it is the end if human race.. There is such a greed for money making that the space for horses is less and less. Now with trump coming as president it is even worst. So not only horses will be killed all other wild animals are being used for hunting or just destroying their areas.. So keep that in mind. Once there are no more animals left it is the mans fault!

  2. America is so efficient in many different ways. Imagine one person can round up thousands of wild horses ?
    In return of being efficient, they are self destruct!
    Greed comes to play.

  3. These people burn me up they're that one's who protest about cruelty to animals but yet they'll go home and eat a big juicy steak or pork chop which I find totally disgusting but come on people don't talk to talk you're there for all animals or you don't eat them at all I'm talking about animal protesting

  4. I look at those animals and I see much better than I do when I look at people.the state of the world what man has done to it and there moaning about this omg and as for the grass the thick bastards we have got much bigger problems on our hands

  5. The government lies out there ASSHOLES… There are not that many wild horses out there. Unfortunately ranchers are still killing the wild horses illegally.

  6. People seem to forget that in the early 1800's, there were an estimated 20-30 MILLION Bison grazing in the American West. Pre-white man's arrival, it was estimated to be as high as 60,000,000+ in North America (including Canada). Bison stand 6 to 6.5 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 2,000+ lbs which makes them substantially larger than the American Mustang horse. They ate more, drank more, pooped more, and tore up the ground more with their hooves. The deep ruts left by Bison on heavily traveled trails are still visible in parts of the American West today.
    I have yet to hear any "expert" provide a valid explanation for why it is that land that once supported tens upon tens of millions of mammoth-sized animals is now supposedly struggling to support a measly 50-100,000 wild horses that are half that height and weight. Even factoring in the farmer's sheep and cows, the math does not track. Clearly, the powers that be are not giving us the whole story.

  7. Get the cows and sheep off my land! Those ranchers pay less than $2 a head to graze their livestock on our public land. A cow and her calf count as one head. We, the people, pay the rest with our taxes. The majority of Americans want the mustangs and the burrows to remain free. The solution us simple, reduce the millions of livestock on public land, make the ranchers pay full price for grazing fees, use the tax money saved to help pay off our national debt, every 20 years have a 10 year moratorium on breding horses hold mustang and burrow adoption events and make them more affordable and accessible to the public.

  8. These majestic animals must be protected! There is PLENTY of land in the USA to graze them!
    There is evil behind these roundups and it must be exposed!
    People would have to be as wicked as those who kill innocent babies, to harm these horses!

  9. Why not just put them back to work? Allow people who can’t afford cars to ride horses! Or export them like the days of old

  10. Wtf??… thats just stupid..

    Hey. Humans over populated the earth… should we legalized purging humans??. Sounds good to me.

  11. Us humans are the Vicegerents on earth.
    We need to make sure that everything is in order.
    Horses were very useful in former days, but that is not the case nowadays.
    If they are indeed overpopulated, overgrazing, causing humans GREAT financial loss, then they need to be killed.
    Giving them drugs to prevent pregnancies will definitely effect their health. It messes up their hormones.

    They NEED to be killed. And their meat other body parts used for useful purposes.

    We can't restrict Cattles and Sheep.
    They are our major food source.
    Limiting their population will result in lower supply and higher demand, therfore hiking their prices.

    What's more important?
    The welfare of Humans or the welfare of Animals?

    Humans of course

  12. They show the BLM paddocks full of hay and water and grass but they are known to be extremely over crowded, barren of grass and sometimes water, and without relief from the scorching sun.

  13. At 8:31 you can see the horses ears are down and that means they’re mad or irritated and a lot of their ears were down

  14. I think that people are really letting sentimentality cloud their heads. These wild horses are an invasive species. Even though horses lived in North America
    thousands of years ago that doesn’t that make them native. Since their extinction about 10,000 years ago, the western United States has become more arid and many of the horses’ natural predators, like the American lion and saber-toothed cat, have disappeared. There are really no more large grassland predators (bears and wolves mostly live in more forested areas) in North America, so it would completely unbalance the ecosystem to just let the horses run around unchecked.

  15. Horses are actually native to North America, the only reason they ended up in Asia and Europe is because a small population fled before the ice age covered the great plains in ice. I'd say leave em

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