A national wild-horse advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit calling for the use of cameras on helicopters, trap pens and holding pens used during roundups that remove thousands of wild horses and burros from their home ranges each year.
The Cloud Foundation’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior is aimed at addressing “the lack of transparency at roundups conducted by the Bureau of Land Management,” according to the group’s spokesperson.
Helicopters are used to stampede wild horses and burros for miles, often in extreme conditions, and frequently resulting in mustangs suffering major injuries—some fatal.
A BLM roundup in Nevada in July left 31 mustangs dead in 26 days, according to the agency. The Cloud Foundation noted that horses broke their necks and legs in efforts to escape capture, and tiny foals were run to death.
Members of the public are permitted to witness the gathers, but are kept at locations miles away from the trapping sites, often with obstructed views.
The use of real-time cameras was recommended in a report commissioned by BLM’s long-time roundup contractor, Cattoor Livestock Roundup: “Video monitoring of animal operations is a good way to ensure humane handling is taking place on a daily basis. Video cameras mounted in helicopters and in the capture and holding pens can also render the activists’ videos as simply nothing more than proof that your business ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to upholding animal welfare standards,” the report noted.
Nevada is home to nearly two-thirds of the 68,928 wild horses the BLM estimated on March 1 were roaming federal lands in 10 Western states. The latest Nevada roundup, which continued into August, was a “crucial gather,” the BLM noted in a court filing, because the estimate of 6,852 horses in that area of eastern Nevada is nearly 14 times what the land can ecologically sustain. The agency says roundups typically have a mortality rate of less than 1%.