Op-ed by Steve Long, editor/publisher of Horseback Magazine
Animal Law Coalition Update Oct. 18, 2011: Since the publication of the op-ed piece below, the petition to stop the killing of burros in West Texas Big Bend Ranch State Park has nearly 100,000 signatures: Go here to sign! Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, has condoned the killings. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. has dismissed the burros as "feral donkeys" from Mexico. The Department claims the burros must go, meaning they are to be shot and killed on sight, to make way for the restoration of bighorn sheep. The department is actually making way for hunting of bighorn sheep; bighorn sheep are prized by trophy or big game hunters. Change.org reports the bidding for hunting permits for bighorn sheep has reached $152,000.
It is cruel and pathetic that an agency charged with protecting and conserving wildlife is nothing more than a shil for special hunting interests, that brutal killing passes for "conservation" and "wildlife management".
What else you can do – Submit questions during debates and town hall meetings to candidate Perry as to why he is not following humane, progressive conservation policies and instead treating these animals to cruelly?
Original op-ed article: Three years ago when former Texas Parks and Wildlife parks director Walt Dabney issued a moratorium stopping shooting of wild burros in the vast Big Bend Ranch State Park animal advocates quieted down.
The shootings were halted after a flurry of bad press in the local Big Bend Sentinel and in the statewide Horseback Magazine.
Now that donkey killings have resumed under new parks commissioner Brent Leisure, the public outcry has dramatically increased, with 60,000 names on a petition and a possible ricochet into the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Contacted by Horseback Magazine last week for an interview on the issue, Leisure punted, kicking the controversy to an underling, Kevin Good. Horseback responded saying the issue was getting legs and required comment from the top. Both Leisure and TPWD head Carter Smith’s email addresses were provided.
The Perry campaign will likely have to respond to the issue because the Texas governor will almost certainly be compared to Alaska’s Sarah Palin who advocated shooting wolves from the air prompting howls of protest from wildlife advocates and outraged citizens. (More on Palin.)
The outcry may be worse in Texas where equine advocacy groups are already active fighting horsemeat processors shipping thousands of domestic horses across the border to Mexican abattoirs. The burro killings are also likely to be linked to the alleged inhumane treatment of wild horses in the American West during helicopter driven stampedes by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Texas Parks and Wildlife launched the resumption of donkey killing with Perry’s approval, advocates claim.
The petitions are being sponsored by the website, www.change.org.
The state agency counters saying the approximately 70 burros are destructive to the huge park’s fragile landscape and that the burros are not a native Texas species. They also claim to have worked with wild horse groups to humanely capture the burros yet none of the animals are in captivity.
Animal Law Coalition NOTE: More than 50 burros have been gunned down by Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. The burros are not protected by the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1331 et seq. That federal law only applies to wild horses and burros on federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. These burros being killed are located in a Texas state park, the Big Bend Ranch State Park in west Texas.