S1 E4 : Ellie Phipps Price: Protecting America’s Wild Horses
Ellie Phipps Price is the president of the American Wild Horse Campaign, an organization that has been fighting for years to save America's wild horses. If you didn’t know that our wild horses needed saving, or even that we had any wild horses, here is some back story:
We do, we have 30,000 of them. They roam freely in 10 western states. They need saving because they are threatened, pretty much single day of their lives by our government. The BLM, the Bureau of Land Management, doesn’t like these horses and they would much rather lease that land to ranchers for cattle. They already do lease most of it for cattle. It's 50 to 1, so for every 50 cows on public lands in those states, there's one horse, but that's still too many for the BLM. And so, they organize roundups, which means they go after these horses with low-flying helicopters and chase them, sometimes for over 20 miles. The horses run at full speed, breaking legs, falling down, some die, mothers get separated from foals, they’re terrorized and terrified, and then rounded up, loaded onto trucks and put in government holding like prisoners.
Until I met Ellie and Suzanne Roy, who’s the executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, I didn’t know big this fight was. It’s huge, and it’s really complex and there are many smaller battles that happen within it constantly. The crazy part is, well there’s a lot of crazy parts to this story, but one of them is that when polled, the American public wants these horses free. 75% of the USA says keep them free. Between the helicopters and the holding, there are millions of dollars spent on getting rid of these horses.
The rounded up horses live the rest of their lives either in government holding or in some sort of captivity, or they end up in the slaughter pipeline, which means they end up going to slaughter houses in Canada or Mexico.
These horses were supposed to be protected. In 1971, Nixon signed a law called The Wild Free and Roaming Horses and Burro Act. The law states that the BLM is supposed to manage these herds, but no management has happening at all. Instead, it's inhumane, it's unsustainable, and it makes no financial sense whatsoever.
Right now, we have 30,000 horses on public lands, and 50,000 in government holding. Most of them will never leave. Very few of them are adopted and the rest of them stay in holding or end up on their way to Canada or Mexico, and there’s just no reason for any of this.
There's a birth control vaccine called PZP, which is a perfect solution to this entire issue. It’s used in wildlife populations all the time. The horses would get darted once a year and they would not get pregnant, but the BLM would rather spend their money on helicopters and government holding. PZP costs $30 a year per horse.
I met Ellie this summer in northern California. She has been involved with the American Wild Horse Campaign for the past 12 years. The way that she got involved is pretty amazing. She read a book about mustangs and shortly after, read an article in Vanity Fair. I don't think she planned in that moment that she was going to be changing her entire life, dedicating it to saving our horses, but that’s what happened. She put the article down and started making calls. She hasn’t stopped protecting these horses since. We are so lucky to have people like Ellie on this planet. Without them, I don't know if we'd have any wild horses left.