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Humane Fertility Control Can Save Wild Horses and Burros

Humane Fertility Control Can Save Wild Horses and Burros

Wild horses and burros are currently being inhumanely “managed” by the United States government in a failing protocol of horrifying helicopter roundups, removals, holding, and sale to slaughter. After capture, holding these animals is unsustainable which directly leads to “sale authority” animals (sale to slaughter). Humane fertility control is the answer to saving these wild equines and preserving their freedom on our public lands.   

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) are charged with managing wild horses and burros on our public lands. Both agencies acknowledge that their current policies of roundups and removals are not working. Yet, they obtusely continue with them, largely ignoring the better option of fertility control. The majority of the BLM’s budget is spent on capture and holding costs. Last year, less than 1% of their budget was spent on proven PZP fertility control. Now, to obscure their failed policies, the BLM is proposing an equally bad one: permanent sterilization! 

Porcine zona pellucida (PZP) is a vaccine that has been scientifically studied on wild horses for decades. The reversible PZP vaccine has been used successfully on the popular wild horses on Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland since 1988!  The Assateague herd is treated as wildlife and the horses are not rounded up or removed from the island. Since then, other wild horse herds have also proven the safety and efficacy of PZP, yet the government agencies do not allocate enough funds to administer it, and have even inexplicably halted some successful PZP programs in wild horse herds! 

You may hear of some groups opposed to PZP when the government put it into the “pesticide” category because there was no appropriate category. However, these well-meaning groups are misguided, because PZP is NOT a pesticide, or even remotely related to one. It is a totally natural vaccine which blocks fertilization. It is a far better option than the ineffective and inhumane alternatives of permanent sterilization or continual roundups! 

Last November, the Botstiber Institute for Wildlife Fertility Control held a “Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Fertility Control Workshop,” which included speakers from academia and the Science and Conservation Center which produces PZP and provides training for its use. New research on PZP and another potential fertility control, GonaCon, was presented. In Defense of Animals believes it is time for our government agencies to adopt a more rigorous program for humane, reversible fertility control over roundups and permanent sterilization!  

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