Many of Canada’s cattlemen have the same agenda as many of our American cattlemen do – kill the wild horses because they want that land. The fact that Jason Bradley sits on Alberta’s feral horse committee and profits off their capture makes ones head spin. ~ HfH
By: Liz Brown
Arrests and sit-in protests peppered the feral horse capture season this year as the Alberta Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resources Development (ESRD) issued three capture permits in January, allowing for the removal of up to 196 feral horses from an area west of Sundre.
“We were disappointed that the decision to have a capture season was made for this winter,” says Bob Henderson, founder of the Wild Horse of Alberta Society (WHOAS). “We had expressed our concerns to the ESRD that there was a very high foal mortality rate in 2012 and 2013, up to 70 per cent not surviving for various reasons. Then with this winter hitting wild horse country the way it did, we felt that nature was doing a good job of managing wild horse numbers.”
Shannon Mann, founder of backyardactivist.com, in coordination with the group Help Alberta Wildies, organized a two-week protest from February 16 to February 28 near one of the capture pens to observe the removal of the horses.
The group was interfering with the lawful removal of the horses as they spread hay to lure the animals away from the capture pens, according to Jason Bradley, a rancher who was issued a horse capture permit. Police arrested five of the protestors and charged them with mischief, alleging they ignored orders to stay away from the capture site.
Bradley says that people were tampering with the capture pens, placing hay close to the capture pens to lure horses away, and that some of the protestors admitted to him that they were physically chasing horses away from the pens.
“Everything we did was fully within the law,” says Mann, who herself was not arrested and who denies that anyone in her group tampered with the pens.
“Nobody did anything to directly affect the capture. It’s all perception. They told us to move because camping within the vicinity would keep the horses away from the capture pen.”
Both Henderson and Mann were particularly upset that three captured mares were sent for slaughter when people from their groups offered to buy them from the permit holders. “It seemed to be done out of spite,” says Mann.
Bradley, a professional grazier, argues the horse capture is necessary to maintain the health of his range. “It’s part of a management strategy and a need to effect healthy range management practices,” he says.
He adds that the ESRD have documented damage to the health of his range due to wild horse grazing. However, Mann argues the capture is motivated by economic interests more than range health interests.
“They (the ranchers) feel the horses are competing for grasslands with their cattle,” she says. “If this was about range health the cattle shouldn’t be there either. If you want to call a spade a spade, this is about money and the cattle ranchers having a lot of power.”