By Martin Griffith Associated Press
RENO, Nev. — Wild-horse advocates staged weekend rallies across the country, including ones in Carson City and Las Vegas, to drum up opposition to the government’s removal of mustangs from the range and to proposals to slaughter them.
Rallies were held Saturday in all 50 states as well as Canada and Australia, according to organizers.
A demonstration that drew some 70 people outside the Legislative Building in Carson City was the largest, organizers said. Similar rallies attracted about 50 people in Las Vegas, 25 people in Oakland, Calif., and 20 people in Rock Springs, Wyo.
The rallies were initiated through social media by Wild Horse Preservation League member Patty Bumgarner of Dayton.
Horse groups are hoping new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will represent a shift in direction for the government’s management of wild horses. They note nearly 40,000 horses were removed from the range across the West during the tenure of her predecessor, Ken Salazar.
The organizations also are fighting efforts to return to domestic horse slaughter. Last week, a New Mexico facility moved one step closer to becoming the first plant in the country in more than six years to slaughter horses, with a successful inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In Carson City, singer Lacy J. Dalton joined protesters who waved placards reading, “Keep Our Horses on the Land! Not in the Frying Pan” and “Not for Human Consumption.”
State Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, sponsor of legislation to crack down on animal cruelty, attended the rally in Las Vegas.
“We are united across the country to say no to slaughter and roundups,” said Anne Novak, executive director of California-based Protect Mustangs, which organized protests in Oakland and Wyoming. “We want our wild horses to be protected.”
Horse defenders strongly oppose the federal Bureau of Land Management’s ongoing program to remove mustangs from public lands, saying there are now more of the animals “stockpiled” in government holding facilities than remain free on the range.
About half of the estimated 37,000 horses and burros on federal lands are in Nevada. BLM maintains that the range can sustain only about 26,000 and conducts roundups regularly to try to get closer to that number.