Media Comes to Humbolt, but sings the same old song

Day 1 Humbolt HA removal 2015

Day 1 Humbolt HA removal 2015

Over the years, Wild Horse Education (WHE) has participated in multiple media stories published in print and video formats. More times than not, the media already has the story in their head before they do any interview. They may ask pertinent questions, allowing you to provide in depth and insightful responses—but too often than not, this vital content lands on the cutting room floor.

“Not only are wild horses being trapped and removed from the range, but media is trapped in the same old story. This year it is vital that American’s understand the big picture and stop the insane loop of the past. The damage being done to our western landscape could reach critical mass in this 4th year of drought. We must break the old patterns now.” Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education

Young foal separated and then roped.

Young foal separated and then roped.

Well, it happened again at Humboldt. Al Jazeera made a special trip to Nevada to cover the current wild horse issues happening in the state. Unfortunately, the most insightful and important information we provided didn’t made the cut. Instead, we were labelled “activists”. Our responses regarding the roundup happening at Humboldt, the grazing program, and the ominous four year drought were also omitted.

“Activists against ranchers” is the lead in tag on the story. However ranchers and BLM talk about the horses on the range… the “activist” is limited to comments on handling. We are more than disappointed. We wonder IF wild horse advocates will ever be given a chance to speak to the issues by media?

Humbolt Day 5, temporary holding

Humbolt Day 5, temporary holding

Here are some of our quotes that did not make it into the video:

“Public land ranching is the most detrimental use of our ranges and provide less than 4% of beef utilized in industry.”

“If you want to talk about the cost of the Wild Horse and Burro Program you need to contrast it to the enormous cost of the public land grazing program. Public land ranching is operated at a direct loss to tax payers of more than $130 million a year. Then realize that the horses are being removed to satisfy the need for public land ranching. So are the horses the heavy cost to the tax payer or the cows?”

“They say they don’t want ‘all the horses gone’ but they want them managed in a way that is destroying the health of the herds.”

“If you removed every wild horse out there the range would still be in trouble. Remove all the cows and we would begin to see recovery. We do not have a horse problem.”

“I’m an advocate. When you advocate say for a sick child you do not scream at the doctor that the disease does not exist. You learn all you can about the disease, options and then come up with the best plan. Right now activists are screaming that there is no problem. Ranchers are denying the 4th year of drought. The government needs an enema before it passes anything. It’s time for the crash cart because the patient is dying. A dead range supports nothing.”

“BLM will tell you it is protocol to remove these horses. But right now BLM is failing to monitor the range and restrict livestock. Why don’t you ask the BLM manager what he is doing to stop the cows from destroying the range in this district? It is long past time we had accountability to the public for the damages done by public land ranching and stop scapegoating wild horses.”

“We need accountability across the board. The government needs to stop catering to it’s favorite child, the public land rancher.”

Statistics on grazing, studies showing the range damage, the tiny portion of public land actually used by horses—all of this was given to the reporter. And instead, we have the same old media story.

We gave them info on the court wins against conduct and the policy that is being written into contracts for handling. We talked about that being an ongoing issue that is seeing progress, but that the real threat is on the range. Range management flaws are the cause, all other symptoms such as holding are caused by failures on the range.

On the word “feral” I guess we did not give the quote they wanted. We told them that “the wild v feral thing was irrelevant. Congress said these horses are to be managed as wild. If Congress said Golden Retrievers were to be managed as wild you better follow the law, and we are not.” We did explain that North America was the birth place of the horse etc. But it appears that we were attributed to a statement that the reporter wanted to discount, even though we did not say it.

We are trying very hard to get media to cover the stories that need covering. We did our best effort here to get the greater message across. We hope you know we will continue to try. We are grateful they came to cover the story, but must admit we were seriously saddened that the product is the same piece we have seen in media for years and years. It even uses the same BLM file footage of holding cut in almost identical fashion to what we have seen in broadcast pieces before… and none of it reflects current range conditions in the west, but instead was shot in holding in the midwest.

If you’re a journalist wanting to do a story on wild horses you must first talk about wild horses. What they are, why they are supposed to be protected and how that protection has failed. Then talk to the multiple interests. Stop looking for the easy way out by portraying the same tired cast.

We at Wild Horse Education are advocates. We are actively engaged in all areas of process. Yes, until we have an actual policy that reflects that these amazing beings are of value, a real humane handling protocol on the books, the rest of the program will fail. Yet in this 4th year of drought the issues are much more intense and urgent.

Newly captured wild horse in trap pen, Humbolt.

Newly captured wild horse in trap pen, Humbolt.

We are grateful that the story was covered at all by media that often overlooks that the issues exist. But until the media can actually do a real story the public will remain uniformed to the real issues. Will the media ever do an in depth story on the reality of wild horse and burro issues in the West? We are still waiting.

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Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protections for wild horses from abuse, slaughter and extinction.