BLM Drops Planned Sterilization Experiments on Oregon’s Wild Mares

Photo by Paul Gorbould

Portland, Oregon—Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it will drop proposed sterilization experiments on wild horses in Oregon, just days after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to stop the federal agency from its cruel and controversial plans to surgically remove the ovaries of mares.

The experiments were scheduled to start Nov. 5, and the BLM’s withdrawal handed a victory to the plaintiffs in the case — the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI); the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC); The Cloud Foundation and its executive director Ginger Kathrens, who is also a member of the National BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board; and photographer Carol Walker.

Today, the BLM notified attorneys for the coalition and the U.S. District Court of Oregon that the agency intends to halt the experiments. This is the second time wild horse advocates have stopped BLM from proceeding with these risky experiments. In 2016, the BLM dropped plans to conduct the research after AWHC and The Cloud Foundation filed a similar lawsuit.

“We are gratified that the BLM has nixed these cruel experiments on federally protected horses, but it should not take two lawsuits over two years to convince a federal agency that America’s beloved wild horses deserve humane approaches to population management,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., equine program manager for AWI.

“The BLM made the right decision to abandon these barbaric experiments and instead listen to the strong interest the public has in seeing our wild horses protected and treated humanely,” said Brieanah Schwartz, government relations and policy counsel for AWHC. “We now hope that the agency will reconsider all plans to conduct this inhumane research and focus instead on humane, scientifically recommended forms of population management, including PZP fertility control.”

The experiments called for performing an outdated surgical procedure called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves manually twisting, severing and removing ovaries via an incision in the mares’ vaginal walls. Veterinarians called the procedure unscientific, inhumane and dangerous, noting that it would result in pain, suffering and potentially life-threatening complications for wild mares. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the procedure was “inadvisable for field application” due to risk of bleeding and infection. Video of the procedure can be seen here.

The BLM had planned to move forward with the experiments despite massive public opposition and the withdrawal of Colorado State University from the project.

“The sterilization research was a path to destroying wild horses, by destroying the very essence of what makes them wild – their natural behaviors,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation. “Now we must remain vigilant to ensure that the agency instead works with advocates to develop humane management options.”

“It is time for the BLM to listen to and work with the American public who want our wild horses managed in the most, humane, caring and least intrusive way so that they can continue to roam free on our public lands,” added Carol Walker, wild horse photographer. This is a step in that direction.” For more information on the lawsuit, click here.

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Media Contact

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, margie@awionline.org