Wild Horse Education

Humane Handling, it is the law (rumor mill)

Triple B, the case that began the “CAWP” conversation after litigation shut the operation down nearly a decade ago.

There is a rumor being spread on the internet that “only a funding bill creates law.” Basically, the rumor states that litigation that drove/enforced creation of a humane handling policy is meaningless; that because Congress did not name the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) in the spending bill BLM can ignore CAWP. It is in the current bill, but that will not change the law, it just creates another court exhibit. The law already states “humane.” If it did not, we would not have won those early cases. The policy is now part of the underlying documents; strengthening claims, not weakening them. 

We know where that rumor is coming from, but it is flat out false. As the roundup machine runs full steam, and the need for litigation is apparent, this rumor is dangerous self-interest and motivated by greed. Litigation is an extremely important tool that changes policy, defines law, and builds on the last precedent. It is used in civil rights, environmental, endangered species, everything. One case is never an end, it is a part of a whole that continues a movement. 

It would have been great if BLM followed the intention for review and revision, done openly. But we all know that is not how things work in the majority of public lands policy process.

It is extremely unfortunate that there are those that would rather destroy the work of others than build on it, join it, learn it, help it. “There can be only one” is not a WHE motto, there are so many layers and herds that need help, but it is the motto of some.

It would be different if people honored the cases (many they actually cite in their own litigation) and run a campaign to make it stronger. That is how the enviro community operates; they say “thank you” for the new “arrow in the quiver” for the cause. Why is “wild horses” so different? Why denigrate, rumor monger and not just build on the last case?

In the beginning we ignored it and focused on the law. But our org suffered deeply as a result of ignoring all the rumors and we now must address these issues head on.

WHE is the only organization to ever litigate abuse at roundups, we won every case. No other organization has ever tackled the legal issues of abuses; we know what we are talking about.

That relentless litigation drove policy creation, because humane handling is the law. Policy must comply with the law. Congress typing the acronym “CAWP” into a spending bill does not change the validity of CAWP.

As part of litigation we have gotten “investigations” into actions on the ground. “Investigations” are always weighted heavily on the side of the government (Triple B, pre-CAWP). Only when you have a judge, that you can demonstrate clear distinctions to during litigation, can you shift the scale even with an “investigation” in your hand. It is an absurdity that the tool of litigation is being minimized, against abuse, by those that file litigation for other issues!

All litigation has objectives that include enforcement, defining law and policy change, around existing law and language. The evolution of law is through building blocks of precedent.

Many of our readers mourn the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” What if Justice Ginsberg never took those foundational cases and instead just created a petition? 

The current rumor that the litigation was/is meaningless is an outrage.

In a nutshell:

The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act states management practices must be humane. Our first cases, at the start of the decade, demonstrated the need for written policy.

After BLM created the policy we litigated again and won. BLM then included that policy in underlying NEPA documents and contracts for each removal. Inclusion of the policy in those documents made any ongoing, necessary, litigation stronger when/if you can bring the next case.

Fast Forward:

Since we won the policy there has been a concerted effort by others (on internet, other advocates) to minimize that policy. Massive “cash cow” campaigns were created to push forward other agendas by the “Ten Years to AML” bunch and their buddies.

A lot of very dirty games get played as some see advocacy as a competitive business, not a movement.

Social media has become a dangerous playground that often destroys progress. Example: Our team was the only team onsite as a mare aborted and was run for 45 minutes. Another org claimed they filed a “legal complaint,” shared that video, and told you to donate to them as the “leaders” in the fight against abuse. A legal complaint is filed in court, not an email “complaining.” They were not there and had no legal standing. They did not contact us to help get the next case on file, they ran over us in the pay to play of social media. Our team could not make back gas and room and had to leave early; the social media won and we could not get on file in court to move strategic litigation forward, we could not even stay at the operation no one else was there to observe. (warning: disturbing content here)

Will advocacy for wild horses ever operate like other environmental interests, or civil rights, with a base of support that engages law and policy or just remain a series of social clubs? 

Much of this is coming from multi-million dollar corporations that have lost some litigation and never told the public. They make a lot of money off roundups and now have to answer the public: “why don’t you litigate abuse?” Is that what this is a competitive business rumor? today was the second time in one week they denigrated litigation against abuse, we could not remain silent.

The humane cases are hard. You have to move with accuracy and speed. Your documentation must be pristine and you must be able to prove distinctions between accidents and abuse, beyond any doubt. Those cases are grueling and worth every mile. 

If litigation against policy is not the way to create change, why is there litigation on anything? Why are animals on the Endangered Species list still in need of litigation? Why is litigation needed to force listings? Why do we have to litigate to get documents under the Freedom of Information Act? Why do we have to litigate to protect water and habitat in wild horse territory?

Congress funds and creates law, the courts enforce it. We have 3 distinct branches of government in the US, each with specific functions. Humane management is already law. Laws get violated, need definition, that is where litigation enters the picture.

Over the last few years, due to the “rumor mill” and the effects it has on media, legislators and field personnel we have gone backwards as a movement, not forward. WHE almost went under in 2017 as public relations firms made backdoor deals and spread rumor. We hung on. We are still here.

We have been working extremely hard to undo the damage done in Congress by those prioritizing only agendas they personally benefit from and the situation is escalating. WHE has never had a paid lobbyist. Our volunteers are assisting citizens as they engage their reps.  We will do a webinar soon on all we have learned.

We have set a frame to take litigation on CAWP further. But WHE is still struggling under the big corporate thumb and internet rumors. We will add CAWP to that webinar.

It is extremely unfortunate that there are those that would rather destroy the work of others than build on it, join it, learn it, help it. “There can be only one” is not a WHE motto, there are so many layers and herds that need help, but it  is the motto of some.

We are on range with water issues in many HMAs and dealing with the mass of misinformation at the Congressional level. This piece was done fast to answer the new set of rumors put out by those pushing a substance (pzp) as a magic wand. As adults we recognize that there are no magic wands in any public lands process.

We at WHE, that have had to struggle to survive after all of that work to begin to change actual policy, are more than broken hearted as we watch consequence created by self-interest over and over. Our wild ones deserve more than that.

Do you want to know more about the misinformation at the Congressional level? Do you want to learn more about CAWP, and the ongoing fight against abuse? We will schedule an interactive webinar after the Advisory Board meeting this week.

We are extremely busy and are making headway. Maybe that is why the rumor mill is hitting so hard? This work is hard. It is even harder when so many are trying to stop you.

“It has been a gut wrenching experience that tears at your heart. Advocacy is not what I thought it was. I used absolutely everything I had, the organization had, to win policy changes and legal precedent to win access cases and cases against abuse. It is so damn heartbreaking to watch, year after year, the consequence of childish games taking precedent over actual advocacy. It is a constant kick in the gut. It has to stop.” WHE founder, Laura Leigh.

You can sign up here to stay updated on the webinar, we will get scheduled before the end of the year, to address more internet rumor. Click here: https://whe.salsalabs.org/signupnow/index.html


Help us stay in the fight. 


This case shut down the operation, after BLM said they created CAWP. We won an amazing ruling that caused BLM to incorporate CAWP into NEPA in 2015 strengthening any future litigation. Unfortunately the “Ten Years to AML” crowd, pushing “PZP” as a humane magic wand, ran over us. We can move this (legal action against abuse) forward, but only with support. We are standing again and ready to fight. 

WHE Works, Humane Care

Categories: Wild Horse Education