July 26, 2021

Activists sue to stop cruel wild horse sterilization surgeries

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By Alicia Graef From Care2

Animal advocate are taking legal action to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from performing cruel and dangerous sterilization surgeries on wild mares in Oregon.

Despite public outcry and opposition from veterinarians, the BLM intends to perform controversial and inhumane sterilization surgeries that would remove the ovaries of 100 wild mares, including pregnant mares, from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon at the beginning of November.

The procedure, which is officially known as ovariectomy via colpotomy, is described by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) as “literally reaching into a mare’s abdominal cavity through an incision in the vaginal wall, blindly and without any tool to visualize the mare’s organs, to identify the ovaries by touch and to remove them by severing them with a loop of chain.”

If it sounds barbaric and incredibly inhumane, that’s because it is. But so is the BLM, unfortunately. This is the second time in the past few years that the agency has tried this, but it was fortunately shut down before.

Now, wild horse advocates are taking legal action to stop it again. At the end of September, a coalition of organizations and individuals, including the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), The Cloud Foundation (TCF) and its executive director Ginger Kathrens, the AWHC and wildlife photographer Carol Walker, who is also a director of field documentation for the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, filed a lawsuit in federal court, and filed a preliminary injunction this week, ultimately seeking to stop the BLM from moving forward.

They’re arguing that not only is this plan going to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to wild mares whose health and lives are being put at risk, it’s violating the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and while it’s allowing extremely limited observation, it’s also in violation of the their First Amendment rights.

“Because the BLM is choosing to experiment on America’s wild horse mares by ripping out their ovaries with a chain, killing any unborn foals, public observation is absolutely essential,” said Kathrens. “It is appalling to consider the use of this medieval, gruesome procedure in the unsterile environment of the Hines Corrals, let alone out on the range.”

Still more concerning is that after the public comment period ended in August, Colorado State University (CSU) announced it would be withdrawing from the project. Unfortunately, the BLM announced soon after that it would proceed anyway – even though going forward without CSU means there would be no welfare observations conducted for the mares, which is a huge part of how the agency is supposed to figure out whether or not the procedure is “humane.”

“The BLM must abandon its plan to perform this barbaric surgical experiment on federally protected wild horses,” said Brieanah Schwartz, government relations and policy counsel for the AWHC. “The inhumane nature of this procedure has been documented on video, demonstrating why the BLM is dead set against providing meaningful public observation of the experiments. Once the public sees what our government is doing to our cherished wild horses, the American people won’t stand for it.”

Hopefully the legal action being taken on behalf of these mares will be successful, and the case will help raise awareness about what’s happening to America’s wild horses at the hands of the astonishingly inept agency and increase public pressure in support of better ways forward when it comes to managing wild horses and burros on the range.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

For more on this story go to; https://www.care2.com/causes/activists-sue-to-stop-cruel-wild-horse-sterilization-surgeries.html

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