The Canadian battle for the wild horses

Protests against wild horse round ups by Canadians






Often here in our articles on horse slaughter, we speak of the horrors of Canadian slaughter houses where thousands of American horses are killed every year. Most Canadians, like most Americans, do not want horses killed and they do want their wild horses to remain free.

Virginia Fisher, a Canadian advocate for the “wildies” as Canadians call their wild horses, has provided us with some much needed insight on the efforts of her fellow countrymen to stop their government from destroying the wild horses in their habitat on Canadian soil. Thank you Virginia.

Our Battle with the ESRD – Part I
By: Virginia Fisher

Canadian wild horses

Canadian wild horses

January 21, 2014, was Black Tuesday for hundreds of us in Alberta.  That was the day the Alberta Provincial Government informed the general public that it was issuing Capture Permits for 196 of our free roaming wild horses in the Sundre area of Alberta.  But, let me go back a little way.  In June, 2013, Alberta was hit with the worst floods in its history, and in early December Alberta received a relatively early and very heavy snowfall with temperatures dropping and staying cold.  Our wild horses were struggling

The rescue of Kai

The rescue of Kai

trying to paw through belly deep snow to find grass and many new foals were lost.  One foal was found, completely exhausted and near death, laying in a snow drift.  His herd had moved on without him in search of food, and he was left to his fate.  He was spotted by two people and telephone calls were made and a rescue team pulled, lifted and carried him onto a trailer.  He was taken to a nearby barn and received immediate medical attention and, after a few rough days and nights, started to improve.  He was named Kai, and he became our mascot for what was about to come.

 

Darrell Glover - the "Eye in the Sky" photo by Duane Starr

Darrell Glover – the “Eye in the Sky” photo by Duane Starr

We’d heard rumors from various parties involved in trying to protect the wild horses, that a capture was going to be allowed this year.  Bob Henderson of WHOAS, (Wild Horses of Alberta Society) had been posting on his website that he suspected a capture was imminent, and another man, Darrell Glover, who lives in the Olds area, and our official “Eye in the Sky”, had been flying over the previous capture sites keeping an eye out for any sign of capture pens and roads being plowed out.   Sandie Hucal, who runs Free Spirit Sanctuary, and I had been discussing it on-line and decided to each do a postcard campaign targeting the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), the Provincial Ministry responsible for the (mis)management of our wild horses.  Both campaigns were very successful with around 3,000 postcards being sent into Minister Robin Campbell requesting no capture be allowed this year, and that our wild horses receive Heritage or Protected Status.  It all fell on deaf ears.   

Evidence of clearing by Canadian Govt to round up wildies

Evidence of clearing by Canadian Govt to round up wildies

On January 19, 2014, Darrell spotted a freshly plowed road at a site in the Williams Creek area, previously used by Jason Bradley, a former Capture Permit Holder.  The picture was posted on-line and everyone was asked to network and write, email, phone and fax ESRD and ask if any Permits had been issued this year.  We all did and were each told that, “No Permits issued at this time”.  ESRD was questioned about the plowed out road spotted by Darrell, but all answers were the same, “No Permits issued at this time”.  We knew we were being lied to, and then on January 21st, in the early afternoon, an announcement was made that 196 wild horses were to be culled from the herds and that 3 Capture Permits had been issued, one of them purchased by Jason Bradley.

Jason Bradley is known in the area as he has participated in other captures.  He is also on the Feral Horse Advisory Committee, so in effect, voted for himself to obtain a Permit.  Does that sound like conflict of interest?  We thought so too, but again, all our letters, emails, phone calls and faxes were ignored and the capture went ahead.  ESRD tries to wash its hands of the wild horses, by saying that once captured, a wild horse becomes the property of the Capture Permit Holder and can be disposed of any way the Permit Holder decides.  Jason, has in the past, sent many of the horses he captures to slaughter.  He tears the young foals away from their mothers, and occasionally will keep a stallion for resale, but the majority, including heavily pregnant mares, are sold to a local kill buyer and are shipped to slaughter. 

 

Canadian protesters against govt round up of wild horses

Canadian protesters against govt round up of wild horses

Darrell opened up a Facebook page, entitled Help Alberta Wildies, so that we could easily communicate and pass on information.  Kai’s picture was posted on the page as this was what we were fighting for, and protests were organized, with two being held in Calgary, one in Edmonton, and another in Red Deer.  The four protests were well attended with media present at each.  A petition was started on-line and received over 20,000 signatures in less than a month.  ESRD was interviewed and asked for the reasons for a capture this year, and told everyone, the wild horses have no predators and their numbers were ballooning out of control; it was thought there was a high infection rate of Equine Infectious Anemia in the herds; and the horses were eating all the grass that was intended for wildlife and cattle.  Does any of this sound familiar?  

We knew the wild horse numbers were already down due to the floods and harsh winter, and many attempts were made over the months to get ESRD to postpone the capture until another count could be done proving there was no need to remove any more horses.  Again, we were ignored.  Darrell began flying the areas with a team of counters on board, and confirmed the horse numbers were down.  

The capture went ahead despite all our efforts, so we took action.  Groups were organized to drop hay away from the capture pen and up into the hills were the wild horses would be safe.  Other people were driving skidoos up the plowed out road checking on the pen.  Groups of walkers could be seen out on any given day.  Somehow, a previously open gate onto

The Mischief Makers

The Mischief Makers

our Public Lands, became locked, trying to keep us out.  Imagine those silly people trying to keep us off our Public Lands!  We stepped it up again.  Each effort to block us, only resulted in renewed determination.   As we were being denied any information on whether or not any horses had been captured, Shannon Mann (of Whale Wars), made the decision to camp just inside the locked gate so that she would know when Jason came and went, and if he had captured any horses.  Shannon was out there 24 hrs. a day and spent night after night in a tent in -30+ weather.  We all take our hats off to her!  Shannon was reporting in each day and unfortunately Jason managed to capture 12 horses.  He was annoyed that the horses were nowhere near the capture pen and he hadn’t been able to capture his quota of 42 horses, so instead of selling what he called, the undesirable older horses to one of the numerous people who had asked to purchase and save them, he sold 3 mares to a kill buyer and they were sent to slaughter.  Three other horses were caught by another Permit Holder, Bryn Thiessen, and were sold to WHOAS, and they are receiving training and will be homed soon.  The third Permit Holder never did pick up his permit.  Probably didn’t want any of the bad publicity that Jason Bradley was getting!  As mentioned, Jason was extremely annoyed with us and had repeatedly gone to the RCMP claiming we were tampering with things, which wasn’t true, and the RCMP made it clear they were tired of having to come out each day to check things and they wanted the capture finished.  The RCMP had previously been secretly recorded saying they wanted all the wild horses off Public Land and they even voted on the Feral Horse Advisory Committee to remove them.  The RCMP arrived and ordered Shannon to move her camp.  Again, this is Public Land and anyone has a right to be there.  She asked where she should move to and was given 3 completely different answers by 3 different people. Clearly, the RCMP were making things up as they went along.  In the meantime, Shannon had called for Darrell to come and assist her to move the camp, other people had arrived to take pictures of the capture pen, and others were just out walking.  Darrell picked up a few people walking along the roadway to the capture pen, and the RCMP seeing them all arrive together, assumed they were all part of the “troublemakers” and ended up arresting 5 people and charged them with Mischief.  Four of these people are senior citizens, one a tiny frail lady in her 70’s that uses a walker to get around with.  She was brutally taken down from behind and face-planted in the snow.  All 5 people were held for several hours before being charged and released.  We affectionately christened them the “Mischief Makers” and Mona Jorgenson organized a fund raiser for them to help cover their legal fees.  The Crown Prosecutor has yet to appear in Court, so it is not known at this time if charges will be dropped, but it seems pretty certain that charges are being brought against the RCMP for abuse of force.  They are to appear early next week and perhaps we will be able to move forward from that.

Part II coming soon.




AUTHOR: Posted by Habitat for Horses Calaway
15 Comments
  • Maggie Frazier

    Strange that there is no hesitation in “taking down” people who are not young! Apparently, that’s a problem in the US also. But when the protagonists are male, young & armed – the BLM backs right down!
    About time the RCMP became enlightened & didn’t just “follow orders”. Is there anyone out there in charge that is able to think?????

    May 12, 2014
  • judye michaels

    BRAVO to the Canadian horse lovers! You go above and beyond in trying to save your country’s wild horses. The show of support by “protestors” and actions taken to stop the roundups is absolutely PHENOMENAL!
    God bless you, all!!!

    May 12, 2014
  • Loni Stewart

    Shame on the RCMP for facilitating this travesty. The RCMP’s history was borne on the back of a horse and continues today with the world-famous Musical Ride.
    Ironically enough, there is a museum dedicated to the RCMP and the Musical Ride located in FORT MACLEOD ALBERTA home of the Bouvry slaughter plant. I wonder what they do with their old horses once they can’t perform any more?

    May 12, 2014
  • BRAVO < BRAVO BRAVO< awesome Canadian Mischief Makers !!!!!!!

    May 12, 2014
  • Gail Fagan

    Excellent article!!! Well written and completely accurate. Thank you! Sharing! 🙂

    May 12, 2014
  • I joined WHOAS a few years ago..I worked so hard getting petitions signed to make our free roaming Alberta wildhorses a Heritage specie…It seems that our Conservative government supports the ugly horseslaughterhellhouse in Fort MacLeod and does not listen to any of the caring and compassionate Albertans who want these animals protected..This could be a huge drawing card for the tourist industry in Alberta…and the slaughter of these animals just makes me sick and so darn mad..How dare they do this? What God-given right do they have to send these free-roaming wildhorses to the SLAUGHTERHOUSE..?? This is totally unacceptable!! I declare that I will never vote for another Conservative politician again as I am against the killing of wildhorses, polar bears, seals that this government supports..I am so grateful to Bob Henderson and Darrell Glover (our eye in the sky) hero and so many others who stand up and fight to protect them..Thank you to Shannon Mann for braving the cold Alberta weather for this truly worthy cause..These animals deserve to be a part of Our History and Our Present and Future..I am ashamed of the appointed committee set up by the ESRD to manage these animals as all but Bob Henderson are pro-slaughter with their own self interests taking the forefront. There are so many wonderful people to thank because they CARE…In my heart I acknowledge all of you…I have read many articles by Dr. Claudia Noitzke (hope I spelled your name right), Dr. Judith Samson-French, Jann Arden, Adrienne Clavert, Ken McLeod, Cac Betts, and so many others such as Craig Downer (the ecologist who tries so sincerly to save the wildhorses in the US)and the list goes on and on..I have faith and believe that we will all win this WAR and bring about the change that is needed before these free roaming wildhorses become UNSUSTAINABLE.

    May 13, 2014
  • June Burrows

    I was the old girl that got face planted for being near the capture site.
    I was around during the eradication of the wild horses in the Kootenays and my family was part of the capture. In those days we needed the wild horses to make a living being loggers, ranchers, big game guide and outfitters, miners and to farm our lands. Look at what we have now, do we need these animals to works the land? NO. The horses have paid their way to live in peace and be appreciated, why can’t our government get with the times and see that it’s only greedy ranchers that want them gone and a government that wants to put cash in their pockets.
    If there are capture permits given out next year, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be out protesting next year.

    May 13, 2014
  • Gillian Charrois

    Very well told! This had been a year I hope we will not have to repeat. Alternate methods of management have been proposed that would no longer allow horses to be randomly captured and sold for slaughter. The ESRD has two proposals on its desk. One is from WHOAS and one from Dr Judith Samson-French. Let’s hope the ESRD is smart enough to choose one of these proposals and be done with the likes of certain trappers who have gotten away with this fiasco for too many years.

    May 13, 2014
    • Gail Fagan

      Unfortunately Gillian, the ESRD has been nothing but obstinate, dishonest in their spinning of the issues and have been throwing out smoke with charges of nonexistent diseases. I think they have been badly embarrassed by their own lack of credible data and being caught in bed with ‘stakeholders’ who stand to profit from the killing of horses. They were surprised at the way the anti-cull groups organized and how far they were willing to go and how fast public opinion was firmly lodged against them. They are also career politicians and bureaucrats under a very arrogant provincial government so didn’t see any of it coming LOL! It is my belief there are other large funders like Alberta Beef, Alberta guiding and outfitting companies behind the scenes buying influence. All round a very ugly situation for the horses. While we all would prefer to be cooperative and reasonable…given the way things went with ESRD this year, it’s going to take another big, public fight to get
      them to do what they are paid well to do…fairly represent the PUBLIC interest on PUBLIC lands.

      May 13, 2014
    • Gail Fagan

      Oh…AND a brand new provincial government that understands their mandate is to represent ALL citizens. That’s going to happen and will change things dramatically!

      May 13, 2014
  • Terri Russell

    Fight brave Canadians like you have never fought for anything before. These horses are part of your history as they hopefully be part of your future. Those like that kill trapper should not be allowed to be anywhere near these animals. Ranchers are basically dishonest human beings (as we well know here in the US). They lie, cheat and are dirty players. Many are coporate businessmen who have never seen a ranch let alone worked on one.. like the Rothchilds who are also involved in ranching out west… Don’t expect these people to play nice. It will get down and dirty if you see it for what it is… Take off the blinders and do what you are here to do. And to that 70 year old woman..You are my hero!!! A name that should go down in history. God love and bless you for your bravery and determination!! I know you have my love and respect. Use the history of events in the US as a guide for action in Canada. I hope and pray that you will be far more successful than this country has been. Don’t make the same mistakes.. smile.
    Thank you for all you are doing to help your horses.

    May 24, 2014
    • June Burrows

      Thanks Terry. I’m the 70 year old that you mentioned…the good lord willing and the creek don’t rise I’ll be there next year if they try to cull…

      May 27, 2014