Important Ten Year Anniversary: Fight Abuse
“Sitting in the same place exactly ten years later is surreal. We fought, we won. There was progress. The progress was real. I know how we were dragged backwards and my head spins today. Human greed knows no bounds or limits to how we treat each other and other living beings. This experience is sickening.” Leigh
The judge found the BLM defense of these behaviors inadequate and, it appeared, offensive. He found the pilot conduct witnessed in the video to be dangerous. He found the agency simply denying it actually happened to be “a blame the horse affront.
Above: horse caught between panel and trailer. After pulling on her neck for over 25 minutes the mare was propped against the closed doors without moving and more horses were brought in. We think she was one of the horses BLM put down that day, but they would not confirm.
On August 30, 2011, a wild horse advocate walked into federal court in Reno. It was not the first time she had been there, but it was the first time she had arrived fresh from an ongoing roundup with range dust on her boots.
For nearly a month she had documented reckless flying, babies left behind, regular use of electric shock (even to the face of a foal), pens with no water in over 100 degree heat and even a wild horse dragged by the neck with a rope. Babies were being killed because the agency called swollen joints (from the run) “pre-existing conditions” or “chronic lameness” and saying the deaths were not related to the roundup. Wild horses were being gashed repeatedly during processing and BLM was putting down horses claiming “chronic eye injury/blindness.”
She was told by the expensive so-called “animal rights” lawyers that to bring a case against the BLM for abuse was impossible to win; she would never meet the bar of standing and never be able to stand against government “experts.” Not one of them would take the case for less than a quarter of a million dollars.
She found a lawyer to take the case for a few thousand dollars and donors to cover the filing and fees. She wrote declarations, photo and event logs, looked up laws and helped craft a long-shot case. She did all of this while still attending the roundup each day, documenting and publishing daily updates on the website.
Then the pilot appeared to push a horse with the skids to get it moving! An exhausted horse that could have been roped right where it stood was pushed to keep moving!?
The filing had to happen right then.
Putting on a clean t-shirt and a borrowed suit jacket the ragtag team walked into the courtroom for the first hearing in history against abuse of wild horses at BLM roundups.
The government claimed none of the allegations were true or being gravely exaggerated. They “cared about the horses” and had career experts in charge; nothing was wrong at roundups.
The court found the advocate and the documentation credible. The years she lived on range and travelled roundup to roundup, in the court’s view, gave her the expertise give expert witness testimony.
The judge found the BLM defense of these behaviors inadequate and, it appeared, he found them offensive. The judge found the pilot conduct he witnessed in the video to be dangerous. He found the agency simply denying any wrong doing actually happened to be “a blame the horse affront.”
The BLM claimed the advocate did not meet the burden of “standing” to be harmed by any of the conduct (a requirement to win a case). In one of the (tragically) humorous moments the court stated that the sanity of the advocate was not before the court and therefore the fact that this was how she actually lived her life (and that was not in dispute), she met the burden.
Most (civil) court cases today do not end with a gavel drop like they do on TV; this case did. Judge Howard J. McKibben dropped his gavel with a simple “I rule in favor of the Plaintiff.”
On August 30, 2011, the first (impossible) case against abuse at roundups was won.
The fight against abuse was legally valid and not “overly emotional.” Advocacy as a whole took a big step up the ladder of credibility that day.
We continued to win cases against abuse until the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP) was crafted, the first policy in history against abuse at roundups.
Ten years ago one person ran the roundup-to-courtroom trek alone. Today, WHE is a team and no one person ever has to carry that intense load alone again.
We take a moment to remember this important Anniversary that laid the first stone on the path to gain the first policy in history against abuse during roundups. We remain the only wild horse organization in history to take BLM to court over abuse.
Together we can create change, one step at a time.
Multiple roundups in multiple states will be taking place at the same time. Many of these operations won’t have much notice and the schedule will continue to change rapidly.