Nearly 80 veterinarians from across the United States delivered a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today condemning the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed surgical sterilization experiments on wild horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon.
The letter was sent in advance of the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting, which starts October 29 in Washington, DC. Members of the board, which advises the BLM on a wide range of wild horse management strategies, are expected to consider the issue of surgical sterilizations as a fertility control option for curbing populations on the range.
The BLM’s proposal entails using an outdated procedure known as “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” where a metal rod-like tool is blindly inserted through a vaginal incision in order to sever and remove the ovaries of wild mares while they remain conscious. Under the BLM’s plan, as many as 25 ovariectomies would be performed each day.
The National Academy of Sciences, in its comprehensive 2013 report on wild horse management to the BLM, specifically advised the agency not to utilize the ovariectomy via colpotomy method given the risks of trauma and infection. The BLM’s proposal aims to quantify the rate of complications from the surgery, including death.
In their letter, the 78 veterinarians urge the BLM to abandon any future plans for the experimental use of the procedure on wild mares. “Not only is ovariectomy via colpotomy far more invasive, inhumane, and risky than other nonsurgical methods of fertility control,” the letter states, “it is also more invasive and inhumane than the techniques that veterinarians use on domestic horses in the rare circumstances where some form of ovariectomy is clinically necessary.”
The letter adds: “This procedure can be accompanied by a high rate of complications—including risks of infection, trauma, post-operative pain, hemorrhage, abdominal adhesions, evisceration, abscess formation, abortion, neuropathies, and even death. The associated risks are exacerbated by the fact that, by the agency’s own admission, the surgeries will be conducted at the agency’s corrals in an operating space that ‘may not be entirely sterile." CLICK HERE to read the entire letter.
The BLM’s proposal marks the agency’s fourth attempt since 2016 to undertake these controversial experiments. The AWI, the American Wild Horse Campaign, and The Cloud Foundation secured a preliminary injunction in the fall of 2018 blocking the agency from implementing the experiments after a federal court found serious shortcomings with a previous version of the the BLM’s proposal. However, in May, the BLM issued a new environmental assessment for an ovariectomy via colpotomy study in an attempt to push forward.
A recent AWI-commissioned survey of more than 2,000 adults through The Harris Poll found that an overwhelming 77% of Americans are opposed to the BLM conducting surgical sterilization experiments on wild horses. Federal lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and Senate have called on the agency to rethink this inhumane plan.