Wild Horse Education
The US government and another “Trail Of Tears”
By Leslie Peeples
Many interests covet our public land for their own use and monetary gain; these entities throw millions of dollars into the game to win what belong to us all. Wild horses and burros have no money, so, no voice, they are allotted the mere crumbs that are left over after all the other users have their way with our public lands. Consequently, they have been captured and removed from their homes. We now have around 47,000 wild horses and burros in government holding facilities and every year thousands of horses are injured and die under the mismanagement of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the very agency charged with their protection and preservation by congress. Our government of the people, for the people and by the people has been operating contrarily, as an untouchable entity and has attempted to block our documentation of this travesty at every turn. Most of our wild horses and burros are held in facilities that are closed to the public and we do not have a clue as to their welfare.
Laura Leigh~ photojournalist, videographer. “A few years back I met an old mustang in the kill pen at a packing plant while rescuing another horse. I offered to buy him (for more than three times the market rate, cash) and was refused. A load was going out and they had to “make weight.” I have never forgotten his eyes. He was freeze marked, born “wild and free” and had served man well into his twenties. How did that happen? I had to find out.”
“I came into this issue with the mindset that the “truth” of a story could only be revealed if it is “lived”. So I set off and literally immersed myself in the issue and discovered that Wild Horses and Burros have an entire act of Congress devoted to their protection, but the US governments program looks much more like pest extermination. There are glaring similarities with what our government is now doing to wild horses and the cruel injustices that were levied on the native people of North America. Maybe the horses came from another country once, yet the evidence points to reintroduced native species, but they are here now. They are as American as the land itself and deserve respect and compassion.”
“During the 2009 Calico Nevada roundup I documented foal that had just been captured. His hooves were separating from his body (literally falling off) from a long and terrifying run in front of a government helicopter. I asked to adopt and care for him and was later told he had instead been euthanized. He is one of many. I named him “Hope Springs Eternal”, and in my heart I still have “Hope”. I work for “Hope”. I work to honor all the wild horses and burros who have lost their lives and families to greed and callousness. I will continue this work for the wild horses and burros of the future, so that they will be there for generations to come. This is who I am and why I do what I do…”
Wild Horse Education (WHE) founded by Laura Leigh, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of our wild horses and burros, by empowering American’s with the truth and holding our government accountable to equitable and humane management. WHE got off the ground running in April 2011, rather bare bones, with one determined woman and a fat, furry, dog body warmer named “Elvis.” Some inadequate camera equipment, an overloaded laptop and a beat up Ford Explorer were the “tools of the trade.”
Laura Leigh has contributed to publications such as Horseback Magazine and True Cowboy. Her video footage has been used on CNN, and I-team reports of George Knapp as well as many documentary films and news broadcasts. In the last year and a half Leigh has witnessed more roundups than any person, including government personnel, and her travels have taken her to six different states to view wild herds.
“We are starting to group together an amazing team, people passionate and motivated on one goal, positive change.” said Leigh laughing, “Founding WHE has been like giving birth. But this ‘baby’ needs to start being able to walk on it’s own. It takes a village to raise a child.”
Here is some of what we have accomplished so far:
*Documentation of wild horse roundups and holding that opened the public’s eyes to the truth.
*A very high profile and successful (Ninth Circuit recently denied BLM a rehearing) 1st amendment rights law suit that is still in active litigation on the public’s right to know and see what is happening to our wild horses on our public lands. It includes the disposition of the horses from the range, though every step in the process until their final destination and all information and documents regarding them. This suit has far reaching implications to public access to public lands. This case reads like a biography of Leigh’s life.
*The first “Humane Care” law suit for wild horses and burros, still in active litigation, to hold BLM accountable for civilized and humane treatment. This suit produced the 1st temporary Restraining Order to stop the inhumane Triple B roundup in Nevada and spurred BLM to do a review of operations regarding humane treatment. The BLM report on the review admitted shocking abuse by BLM. (Our Analysis of the Review can be here:https://wildhorseeducation.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/analysis_blm_revtb_2011_whe1.pdf)
*Captured footage of a “horse tripping” (a barbaric and deadly so-called “sport”) that was submitted to Nevada legislators, who had been told that it doesn’t happening NV. To create legislation based on intentional misrepresentations is as wrong as the behavior that a proposed ban was presented to address. (As the state Legislature meets every other year this issue will resurface).
*A wild horse awareness youtube video which has gone viral and currently been viewed by just under a half million people. (Is it Bad Enough for YOU? Wild Horses) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvcd06Mywjc
* Facilitated the rescues and rehoming of several wild horses from the kill pens/slaughter pipeline.
WHE Main Goals
* A clear and defined standard and protocol for humane handling and management, implemented in the field, with a structure for consequences for violations.
*Full access and transparency to know the welfare and locations of the wild horses and burros at all times. As well as public participation in the process and access to all data and documents.
*Manage wild horses and burros comparably with, (equal to) other uses of the public land.
*Restore the public lands that have been removed for Wild Horse and Burro use, or give them comparable lands.
*Document, educate, spread awareness and bring news to the public, our partners. It will take us all standing as one voice to repair what has been done and make it right.
“Some days I question my sanity for the road that I have chosen. Today is one of those days. This road is painful, long, winding, uphill, dusty and frequently unfriendly. And then I remember the thousands of wild horse souls that have passed in front of my camera lens. I still hear them calling to their families as they are forever separated from all they have ever known. Each one an individual face, a life, burned into my memory and I know, I will continue to stand for them, to be their voice, no matter what comes my way.
I have been on this road for over 3 years now, Last year I put 85,000 miles on my old Ford Explorer, about half of it on bad dirt roads. I had to pry the door open with a crow bar because they became cemented shut with all the alkali dust. I have had blowouts at high speeds while trying to follow horses in trailers that were injured in the roundups. I have wondered if I would make it out of white-out snow storms or if my body would be discovered after spring thaw. I bought 15 cases of hand warmers to stuff inside my clothes and boots just to get through the Antelope Nevada winter roundup where temperatures hovered in the single digits. I have had my life threatened. I have seen too many painful things out here at the hands of our government. I have never known if I would have the funds to continue another day, another week, another month, but good people who care about these beautiful animals have somehow always come through to create another day of documenting, writing and fighting.
Yet there is concrete reason to believe we ARE creating a path for change, even if it s one brick at a time.” ~ Laura Leigh, paraphrased conversation with Author.