Truth Rally protesters carry signs in front of Nevada's Legislative Building photo / Carrol Abel
They came from all over - and they just kept coming. Over 160 protesters lined the parkway in front of Nevada's Legislative Building in Carson City on Saturday. Passers-by honked their horns in support of calls to stop the inhumane harvest of wild horses from public lands in the Western United States. Signs calling for truth from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials were prevalent at what rally organizers dubbed the "Truth Rally".
"We're trying to get BLM to really tell the truth about what's going on in the wild horse roundups.
said Bonnie Matton, President of The Wild Horse Preservation League who joined with Least Resistance Training Concepts, LRTC Lucky Horse Rescue and Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund in organizing the Truth Rally. They compiled a list of published BLM statements compared with documents substantiating advocate's beliefs that those statements are misleading to the public. One statement, in particular, stands as a perfect example of political word smithing.
WHAT BLM SAYS: ' The direct mortality rate resulting from helicopter-driven gathers is usually less than one percent. Some indirect mortality also occurs.' from the BLM Wild Horse and Burro website
WHAT BLM DOESN'T SAY: 'BLM data indicates that wild horses and burros held in short term holding facilities, from 2003-2007, had a mortality rate of about 5%. BLM does not report this information regularly to members of the public who remain concerned that the agency does not adequately care for animals in short term holding.' from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report 2008
The GAO report states additionally, " BLM data also showed that the animals generally died due to sickness, broken limbs, or injuries sustained accidentally during gathers."
Recorded deaths in Northern Nevada's Calico Mountain roundup echo the GAO findings. As of Tuesday, February 23, BLM's gather update pages shows a total of 97 dead (including 27-37 aborted foals) - just over 5% Of the 1,922 wild horses that were captured. That number is steadily growing.
Wild horse welfare advocates also assembled in Las Vegas two days earlier, a protest coinciding President Obama's visit to support Democratic candidates in the upcoming election. Arlene Gawnes, local advocate and organizer of the "Mustang Outrage" protest directed over 80 concerned citizens carrying huge banners at strategic pints throughout the city in order to be seen by the President.
Advocates are becoming increasingly upset over President Obama's refusal to acknowledge their concerns. Widely read author, R.T. Fitch, speaks for many of those advocates in a recent blog post saying,
When Obama was still a Senator, he was a co-sponsor of the ban on horse slaughter. Now that he could easily do something about the BLM and about the horse slaughter bill, he has not so much as said a word about it.
Los Angeles horse owner, Lydia Feurst, commented, " I campaigned for President Obama. I worked hard to help get him elected. I know there are a lot of important things happening but he doesn't think we're worth even a few words. I'm regretting it now. "
Though the Truth Rally is largest wild horse protest to date, it takes it's place among many throughout the Nation. The "March for Mustangs" protest is scheduled in Washington D.C. for March 25. Additional protests are in the planning stages. BLM officials continue to buldoze their way ahead with announcements of more roundups to come in Nevada, Utah, California and Wyoming. Public discontent is unlikely to fade anytime soon.