BLM to Proceed with Barbaric Sterilization of Wild Mares, Despite Outcry

Photo by Christine Mendoza
Photo by Christine Mendoza

Burns, Oregon—Despite multiple lawsuits, federal injunctions and overwhelming public opposition, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced last night that it is again moving ahead with barbaric experiments on captive wild mares. It will be the third time that the agency has attempted to implement the controversial and cruel procedure that is being pushed by a livestock industry lobbying group financed by Lucas Oil.

“It’s unconscionable that the BLM is once again attempting to proceed with gruesome sterilization experiments on America’s wild horses, ignoring science and public opinion in the process,” said Brieanah Schwartz, policy counsel for the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). “It is irresponsible and a waste of tax dollars to continue to pursue objectionable experiments while the scientifically recommended and cost-effective PZP vaccine is readily available for humane management right now on the range.”

The BLM still plans to carry out an experimental surgery called “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” in which a veterinarian cuts into a mare’s vaginal wall, places a hand and arm through the vagina in the abdominal cavity, manually (and blindly) locates the ovaries and then severs and removes them with a rod-like chain tool called an ecraseur.

“The BLM’s decision to continue its aggressive and reckless pursuit of gruesome experiments on wild horses is an affront to the countless Americans who want to see these animals protected,” said Joanna Grossman, equine program manager for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “Severing the ovaries of conscious wild mares under nonsterile conditions in a bizarre attempt to quantify the risks and complications associated with this outdated procedure is beyond the pale. Our wild horses deserve better; the BLM should aggressively pursue humane fertility control options such as immunocontraceptive vaccines instead of needlessly putting these horses under the knife.”

According to the BLM’s environmental assessment, the agency plans to carry out the procedure on 100 mares rounded up last October and currently held in the BLM’s wild horse corrals in Hines, Oregon. Of those mares, only 28-34 would return to the range as part of the experiment, and only for the roughly three-year duration of the study. The others would be put up for adoption after the surgery, planned in August.

“It’s obvious that the BLM wants to eradicate wild horses in the West using barbaric surgical procedures performed in an unsterile environment,” states Ginger Kathrens, Director of the Cloud Foundation and the Humane Advocate on the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Board. “Mares will suffer horrific pain and potential death. Why does the BLM continue to turn its back on proven, humane, reversible fertility control?”

This is the BLM’s third attempt to experiment on wild mares by removing their ovaries. In 2016, AWHC and The Cloud Foundation (TCF) sued to uphold their First Amendment right to observe the experiments, a major objective of which was to determine the social acceptability of the procedure. To avoid public observation, the BLM canceled the study.

In 2018, the BLM announced that it was moving forward with the spay feasibility study even after two major research institutions—Colorado State University and Oregon State University—ended their affiliations with the project. At that time, AWHC, TCF, and the Animal Welfare Institute went to court, represented by the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP, and obtained a preliminary injunction to stop the BLM from proceeding. The BLM later announced it would abandon the experiments yet again.

AWHC, TCF and AWI are evaluating all legal options on the new proposal.

Media Contact Information

Sydney Hearst, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, that grew out of Executive Director Ginger Kathrens' knowledge and fear for wild horses in the West. TCF works to educate the public about the natural free-roaming behavior and social structure of wild horses and the threats to wild horse and burro society, to encourage the public to speak out for their protection on their home ranges and to support only humane management measures. Kathrens serves as the Humane Advisor on BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.