Sentient opposes the attempted eradication and large scale culling of wild horses from Australian wilderness areas. There is insufficient independent evidence that the degree of environmental damage or risk caused by wild horses justifies the often radical and sometimes inhumane methods of wild horse management currently used.
News Update July 2015
BWG Spokesperson, Andrea Harvey, presented a lecture at the annual Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists College Science Week earlier this month, entitled ‘Management of Wild Horses in Australia: is there a humane way forward?’
Andrea discussed many widely accepted ‘facts’ that need challenging, since there is much dogma with no scientific evidence to back up claims made including negative environmental impacts, population sizes, rapid growth of populations and the poor ecological fit of horses in Australia. Andrea highlighted key areas where more ecological research is needed, emphasizing that these assumptions are just that, and horses may have an important ecological role. Andrea discussed the ethical and welfare concerns of current methods used for managing wild horse populations, including many of the wider aspects of welfare that are never considered, such as the impacts of large scale lethal culling on social structures of survivors, psychological well being of survivors, reduction in genetic diversity and health and welfare implications of this, and the impacts on other species and the ecosystem.
Andrea finished the lecture discussing immunocontraception in wildlife, beginning with the history of the science of wild life fertility control, and highlighting the many cultural and political biases, which have slowed down the application of immunocontraception in the field. Research in the US on porcine zona pellucida vaccine and GnRH vaccines were discussed, aswell as the barriers to utilizing these agents in Australia. Finally progress on Andrea’s pilot study using the GnRH vaccine, Improvac©, in a group of semi-wild horses was discussed. The study is now one year on, with no evidence of pregnancies. Andrea discussed what further research was needed to progress immunocontraception in wild horses in Australia.
The lecture concluded by highlighting the saying by Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Achieving a truly humane approach to wild horse management in Australia is still a long way off, but those important first steps are being made and the BWG is an important part of that.
The lecture was well received and created a lot of interest, with most attendant veterinarians having little prior knowledge of the wild horse management and welfare issues in Australia, highlighting the need for raising more awareness amongst veterinarians.
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Photo by Anne Fawcett