By Jesse R. Bussard
August 2011 ■ www.tackntogs.com 27
Jesse R. Bussard is a Pennsylvania cowgirl with a degree
from Pennsylvania State University in animal science.
Currently she is pursuing graduate studies in plant and soil
science at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. She
is an active advocate for agriculture through social media
and her personal blog, Pearl Snaps’ Ponderings (http://pearlsnapsponderings.
Too good to be true?
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the
largest and richest animal rights organization in the
world, recently released a report to the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program calling
for a revision of its standard operating procedures to make
mustang gathers more humane and provide more transparent
coverage of roundups.
Though most times proposals like this
sound all well and good to the general bystander,
more times than not animal rights
groups have an ulterior motive. What does
HSUS have hiding up its sleeve with this
Currently the BLM manages an approximate
38,500 wild horses and burros on federal
rangelands covering 10 Western states.
BLM is responsible for not only management
of the range where the mustang herds
reside but also maintaining a sustainable
population of wild horses and burros. Currently
these populations of wild horses and
burros are at unsustainable levels on many
ranges and therefore require some form of population control.
If not controlled, populations could reach levels that
would not be able to be maintained on the current amounts
of rangeland available, leading to starvation, disease, and
increased environmental degradation from overgrazing of
In the report, HSUS calls for installation of real-time cameras
on helicopters, traps, corrals, and holding facilities to
allow BLM offi cials and others to be able to better directly
observe gatherings and also act as an evaluation tool to improving
existing operating procedures. These video cameras
would also increase transparency to the public by providing
remote live-streaming video available online. In addition
to improved transparency, HSUS would also like to see the
BLM establish basic minimum standards for conducting
I can agree with HSUS on its first two requests of BLM.
Both are reasonable suggestions and issues that BLM cur-
rently does need to address. Where I become skeptical is on
the third recommendation. HSUS strongly recommends that
BLM work in partnership with them to conduct their Capture,
Treat, and Release programs to inoculate the appropriate ratios
of mares in wild horse and burro herds at the most effective
time of the year, thereby optimizing to the greatest extent
possible the benefi ts of using the contraceptive
vaccine Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) as a method
of population control.
Here’s where things get real interesting (wait
for it)…the patent holder of the PZP vaccine is
none other than HSUS.
This all leads me to wonder if the true motive
and intent behind HSUS’s report to BLM is
none other than that of profit. One dose of PZP
can run as high as $500. To vaccinate just 20,000
horses would require a whopping $10 million of
taxpayer dollars. Is this really a wise use of our
money? Surely there are other alternatives for
population control that the BLM might consider
such as alternative contraceptives, predator
management, spaying, and/or gelding.
The last thing our government needs to be doing is funding
the lobbying efforts of an animal righs group.
Currently, the BLM is also reviewing another report of the
agency’s wild horse and burro program conducted by the National
Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/
NRC). NAS/NRC is a non-profit group that advises government
agencies on scientific issues. I would hope that BLM will take
all commentary and options into consideration and not jump
on the HSUS bandwagon just yet.
Sometime the offer really can be too good to be true.